The Sunday Magazine: American Idol

All good things must end. One of those good things came to an end this past week; the television singing talent show American Idol. After a typical season of following the stories of 24 hopeful singers the fifteenth, and final, American Idol was crowned.

American Idol began as a summer replacement series in June of 2002. The Fox Network was looking for a cheap reality show for the time of the year which generally sees the least amount of people watching TV. I didn’t start to watch until part way through that first season as people at work were actively talking about their favorites. They were also talking about how hard it was to vote as they kept getting busy signals. This was one of American Idol’s innovations they were going to let the audience choose who continued on until they eventually chose the winner. From the beginning it created voting blocs who would support their favorite by voting multiple times. As the show gained in popularity it was probably one of the first reasons many people learned how to spell out V-O-T-E on their phone’s text function. I am probably not too far from the truth when I say American Idol taught many how to text.

american idol

By the end of that summer of 2002 American Idol had grown into a phenomenon. By the time the second season kicked off in January of 2003 thousands wanted the opportunity to become an American Idol. One of the hallmarks of the show was the early audition rounds where prospective contestants performed acapella in front of a panel of three judges. It was always fascinating to watch a singer grow from that audition throughout the competition. The thing I didn’t like was poor singers were allowed through for comic effect. The ones who were clearly in on the joke were fine. It was the ones who genuinely thought they were good singers, and weren’t, who were then crushed by the judges; always felt cruel to me. Which was why I always recorded those rounds and fast forwarded through those moments. Once that first large group of contestants was cut down to a final 24 then I got the chance to vote for my favorites.

American Idol definitely lived up to its name as it produced numerous alumni who have gone on to amazing success. Winning wasn’t always necessary for the show to give a young talent the opportunity to continue on with a career.

It is that which separates American Idol from a show like The Voice. Idol was always about the contestants first, judges second. The Voice is all about the judges, the contestants are just props to be used. If you need proof name a winner on The Voice who has had success after the show. Do the same for Idol.

I am going to miss spending the first part of every year watching a few talented young singers blossom into confident talents.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review McQueen Parfum- Night Blooming Pleasures

One of my most anticipated new launches of 2016 is McQueen Parfum. This is the third perfume under the Alexander McQueen brand following up on the discontinued Kingdom and My Queen from 2003 and 2005 respectively. It is those two fragrances which had my interest level as high as it was. There are only a few designer fragrance brands which reflect their designer’s style adequately. The Alexander McQueen fragrances are among the best at doing that.  McQueen Parfum had some big shoes to fill.

This follow-up was taking place after the death of Mr. McQueen in 2010 and without his collaborator in the perfume creative designer Chantal Roos. Sarah Burton who took over the brand is responsible for the creative direction on McQueen Parfum. Over the last six years Ms. Burton has done an amazing job keeping the fashion side of the business moving forward. McQueen Parfum will begin to answer whether she can do the same with the fragrance side of the business.

As much as I tried to find out the answer there is no information on the perfumer Ms. Burton worked with on McQueen Parfum. All of the online information comes from her. Ms. Burton’s vision was to form the perfume around a core of three night-blooming flowers; jasmine, tuberose, and ylang ylang. The ad campaign featuring model Maartje Verhoef wearing a dress from the Fall 2016 collection is a great visual to go along with this concept.

mcqueen parfum ad

Model Maartje Verhoef

McQueen Parfum opens with a piquant combination of clove and black pepper. This hearkens back to the strong spicy core of Kingdom except it is moved up to the beginning. I felt these early moments were a way of saying this new fragrance was not going to shy away from being aggressive. I like this opening a lot but I really fell for the florals in the heart. The perfumer behind this did a fantastic job of balancing these three very extroverted florals into one noir-ish accord. The jasmine adds its animalic floral, the tuberose its slightly mentholated version, and the ylang ylang its viscous oiliness. These are used in decent concentration which makes the balancing act a little more impressive. It ends with an earthy patchouli, vetiver, and benzoin base accord. This is not as unique as the previous phases but maybe having it be a little quieter at the end is by design.

McQueen Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I tip my hat to Ms. Burton for continuing to keep the Alexander McQueen brand and aesthetic relevant. This first fragrance under her guidance is a great return for the brand.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Context of Judging

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One of the more interesting panels at Esxence 2016 asked the question about whether criticism and judging are different. Through the course of the panel Dr. Marlen Elliott Harrison, Managing Editor at Fragrantica, spoke eloquently on how criticism is all context. From the author’s perspective through to the reader’s. There is a connection which is forged over time reading a particular critic as you learn their frame of reference.

This lead into the flip side of the coin…judging. As a judge almost all of that context has to be stripped away to offer a fair competition. As a finalist judge for the upcoming The Art and Olfaction Awards I experienced it first-hand.

When I write a review I look for context often starting with whatever press materials I receive. Those often give me a clue as to what is being attempted. There are times where it is a good match. There are times I am left scratching my head. If I like the perfume on a base level, I am willing to ignore press copy which doesn’t make sense. Although if it does make sense it is likely to find its way into my review.

From there I will think about how it fits within its genre. Within the body of work of the brand or the perfumer. This is all context for communicating about perfume.

None of this applied when I was sent 20 clear vials with generic codes on the side to be judged. I went from communicator to evaluator. It was not an insignificant change. It brought the analytical scientist right to the front and stuffed the purple prose communicator into a locker. I was being asked to evaluate in four distinct categories. To keep the data as clean as possible I did not read the accompanying descriptions until I judged the first two categories; first impressions and wear-down. This gave me the most information-less opportunity to compare the perfumes.

mark judging iao finalists

Me during the first phase of judging

I found this process fascinating. Stripped of sign posts my job was to decide whether I thought each of the finalists were well constructed. Did they succeed in being a perfume? Were there degrees of differences between the finalists. I did manage to find differences which I felt confident about using to comparatively score but the anonymity made it so different from my usual evaluation of a perfume.

The final two categories allowed for some context to creep back in. Intentionality was judged on how the perfume performed in relation to a description provided stripping out any brand identifying information. With some context added back in I felt like I was back on familiar ground. Still judging and having to reconcile brief descriptions with ones three or four times longer I was still more scientist then writer.

It was only in the final category X-Factor where we were asked to let anything else we thought to be important to be weighed that my usual context returned. Now my communicator was pulled out of the locker a little the worse for wear but finally given an opportunity to add to the process. It was here where I did think in terms of how the entire package came together. With all of the context added back in I had another score to provide.

This opportunity to see both sides of the criticism/judging coin was illuminating. I think I want to make sure going forward when communicating that the judge and the critic find a way to co-exist.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Super Cedar- IKEA Dreams

Guilty pleasures are things you know you shouldn’t like but are irresistibly pulled towards. When it comes to perfume I like complex, evolving, layered compositions. Which is why I am surprised at how much I like the new Byredo Super Cedar because it is as advertised; essentially a cedar soliflore.

Cedar is one of the most distinctive notes on the perfumer’s palette. Its clean woodiness was one of the first notes I could confidently pick out of a fragrance early on. It is easy to describe; most often as “smelling like pencil shavings”. In the press materials which came with Super Cedar creative director Ben Gorham mentions he was looking for, “Evocative of log cabins and Scandinavian furniture”. That line capture what I think is fascinating about Super Cedar. Perfumer Jerome Epinette moves away from the more obvious pencil shavings. Instead he channels his interior IKEA and captures the smell of a warehouse of disassembled blond wood shelving stacked high to the ceiling.

I am not sure what the sources of cedar M. Epinette used to build Super Cedar. I know Robertet has a full array of fractions and different extractions of cedar for him to consider. My belief is he must have spent a lot of time working with a number of those raw materials finding just the right balance to allow the cedar to be pulled all the way through the development. There are only a few grace notes which provide minimal contrast.

Jerome-Epinette

Jerome Epinette

Right away Super Cedar opens with a sotto voce version of cedar. It doesn’t carry that intensity that cedar usually imparts to a fragrance. A tiny bit of rose floats through but it is left way in the background. Over the next hour the cedar accord slowly forms gathering intensity as I suspect each new cedar raw material adds itself to the mix. This all leads to a pure cedarwood accord which I found compelling. It is here where Super Cedar holds for quite a while. Eventually a bit of vetiver and white musks become apparent but it really is the cedar accord holding together for hours which predominates.

Super Cedar has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The engineering of the central cedar accord is what elevates Super Cedar from just being a flat cedar perfume. It is as densely engineered as a piece of IKEA furniture. As I was wearing it I could almost see one of those pictorial assembly instructions in my head as each new piece of cedar was added. Super Cedar is both super and cedar, if you like the latter I think you will also find it pretty good.

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

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Esxence 2016 Final Wrap-Up Part 2- The Top 10 New Fragrances I Tried

This year Esxence 2016 was bigger than ever. As a result, I felt like I was constantly running around trying to get to everything new. I tried 103 new perfumes over the three days. I’m almost certain I left some unsniffed. I’ve spent the 48 hours since being home giving a few of them a second sniff without being in an exposition hall full of fragrance. The list below carries the usual caveats. These are the ten fragrances new to me. There were some premieres, like Olfactive Studio Still Life in Rio, that would have made the list if I had experienced it for the first time at Esxence 2016. The other thing to remember is these are snap impressions off of smelling on strips and having them on a small patches of skin. Here is my list in alphabetical order.

Bruno Acampora Azzurro di Capri– I have been surprised at how much I have been drawn to new aquatics after ignoring the class over the past few years. Azzurro di Capri has all the reasons I have come to reconsider the category. It is at first a typical Mediterranean riff of citrus and jasmine. When it arrives at the musk, patchouli, and amber base this all gains some presence which I found very appealing.

Gabriella Chieffo Maisia– I think a good fig perfume will always capture my attention. Maisia is much better than good. Using fig leaves as green contrast to lemon in the top notes it is in the heart where the fleshy fig bursts to life swathed in spices. What really makes Maisia stand out is the use of broom and narcissus which twist the fig beautifully.

Homoelegans Quality of Flesh– One of two new brands which made a big impression on me. Quality of Flesh is inspired by Francis Bacon. Perfumer Michele Marin composed this as a triptych of triptychs to represent Mr. Bacon’s artistic style. The central note of the top, heart, and base are juniper berry, narcissus, and leather. This has only gotten better the more time I have spent with it.

Le-Galion-Cologne-and-Cologne-Nocturne

Le Galion Cologne Nocturne– My most anticipated perfume of Esxence 2016 did not let me down. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux working in collaboration with creative director Nicolas Chabot created a cologne for the evening. What Sr. Flores-Roux has dubbed an “amber water”. It is a fascinating construction which surrounds traditional cologne components with an overload of wood and amber. I love the way this develops on my skin.

Maria Candida Gentile Rrose Selavy– Following up the unique Elephants & Roses perfumer Maria Candida Gentile delivers a densely layered rose. Dedicated to Marcel Duchamp, RRose selavy does not suffer that comparison. Every part of the plant is represented and there are multiple different extracts of the flower itself. If you can’t get enough rose in your perfume Rrose Selavy might be your new favorite.

Masque Milano L’Attesa– The creative team behind Masque Milano, Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, have been giving some of the most creative young perfumers an opportunity to impress. Luca Maffei is the perfumer for L’Attesa. He uses three extracts of iris to elongate its development from first moments until the last. What shows his originality is a fermenting champagne accord. This has a yeasty sour wine aspect which is much better in conjunction with the iris than it might be sound. The key to creating the champagne accord, CO2 extract of beer. Masque Milano is becoming a reliable brand encompassing originality and quality.

Mendittorosa Nettuno– Last year I hit this brand late in the day and did not give it a proper assessment in my rush. This year I stopped by when I had time to chat with creative director Stefania Squeglia. Working with perfumer Amelie Bourgeois again Nettuno is an otherworldly paean to the planet Neptune. I enjoyed the slight chill it opens with before warming up considerably as it folds in leather and rum. This is before bringing the chill back with some white musks in the base.

Nishane Istanbul Fan Your Flames– If you’ve ever wanted a perfume to capture a day smoking tobacco, holding a snifter of fine rum Fan your Flames is it. Creative directors Mert Guzel and Murat Katran have captured their desired shisha experience in this opulent perfume.

Sammarco Bond-T– I’ve been chronicling the lighter gourmands coming out in 2016. It was a pleasure to find a new brand going for an old fashioned deep chocolate gourmand. Owner and perfumer Giovanni Sammarco rolls out a 70% Cacao dark chocolate bar infused with osmanthus. I enjoyed the fearless intensity with which Sig. Sammarco composed Bond-T with.

The Different Company Adjatay– Last alphabetically but first on my list as best in show Adjatay’s brief came from a real life moment from creative director Luc Gabriel. After returning from a trip he left some tuberose flowers in an old leather suitcase. When he returned to it he realized he wanted perfumer Alexandra Monet to capture that smell. Mme Monet has made a mesmerizing perfume of tuberose encased in leather refined and roughened as a well-used suitcase should be. Her leather accord is just right to ensnare the boisterous tuberose. The more I wear it the more I fall under its spell.

This concludes my coverage of Esxence 2016. Longer reviews of everything on the list are forthcoming as well as many others not mentioned here. Thank you for following along the last few days on Colognoissuer.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Esxence 2016 Final Wrap-Up Part 1- People, Trends, and Teases

Esxence is always a joy for the opportunity to spend some time with my fragrant friends in real life. One of the early joys of Esxence 2016 was the time I spent with my fellow judges of The Art & Olfaction Awards. The conversations I had with Antonio Gardoni of Bogue Profumo and Sherri Sebastian of Sebatian Signs were mentally stimulating. We are all dedicated to helping these awards be the best they can be. It makes these opportunities when we can get together and talk all the more valuable.

I was once again the roving reporter for the Esxence 2016 video. It is an interesting perspective from which to observe the exposition. I had the opportunity to meet attendees from every continent on the planet. It showed me the breadth of communication fragrance can have without barriers of language or culture.

I also had the opportunity to meet someone I have wanted to for a long time. The more I do my Dead Letter Office columns the more I realize creative director Chantal Roos was ahead of her time. To finally have the opportunity to speak with her was a personal highlight for me.

Another personal highlight was meeting Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison who was attending as Managing Editor of Fragrantica. In his earlier incarnations as the male perfume critic at Now Smell This in 2005 until he founded one of the first solo fragrance blogs by a man, The Perfume Critic, he was an inspiration as I was just starting to write about perfume. It is rare to get the opportunity to thank one of those who inspired me to start writing.

Esxence 2016 entryway

When it came to trends at Esxence 2016 it seems like the Arabian market must be booming because there were multiple brands dedicated to appealing to it. The only problem is the great majority of these brands are using oud-centric fragrances. There has to be a real effort made to differentiate themselves. As I was going through the scent strips I brought home with me I had a hard time figuring out from a quick sniff which brand was which. This kind of anonymity by ubiquity does not bode well for these brands unless there is an insatiable appetite in the Middle East for these kind of fragrances.

The leather trend I noticed at Pitti last September seems to be continuing onward as there were a number of leather based new releases. This mini-trend of new gourmands was also showing up a little more.

I end as I always do with some blind items where I share some sneak previews coming later this year or next year missing some critical information.

-Snap! Crackle! Pop! One brand will be getting down with the Marquis de Sade.

-One brand will be telling a family love story of a love at first sight encounter.

-One perfumer is glowing with anticipation over his next release.

-One Creative Director is looking to head to the Far East for her next brand.

-This brand is going to re-invent its past.

-One of my favorite young guns is about to step up to a major label release.

That’s it for Part 1. I’ll be back tomorrow with Part 2 where I name the 10 best new fragrances I tried.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Penhaligon’s Equinox Bloom- Spring Gourmand

I am used to getting a lot of new spring releases featuring rose. It is a difficult space to do something new within. It seems like a few brands decided to get away from rose for 2016. Now they aren’t eschewing florals entirely they’re just not relying on rose to be the flower which represents spring. As someone who has to sniff so many of these it has made many of the new releases more interesting. Another emerging theme from this trend away from pretty roses for spring is these other florals have been paired with sweet gourmand accords. Penhaligon’s Equinox Bloom is one of these.

Penhaligon’s has been one of the more successful brands at wearing its country of origin on its atomizer. There are many very British inspirations throughout the collection. For Equinox Bloom perfumer Olivier Cresp wanted to recapture his afternoon of tea and cakes surrounded by lush floral arrangements. One of the new technologies helping M. Cresp is Firmenich’s SmellTheTaste collection of proprietary food extracts. This new process is purported to capture food smells in a more accurate way than ever before. In Equinox Bloom M. Cresp uses Chantilly SmellTheTaste and Brown Sugar SmellTheTaste. I really feel the difference in these ingredients. Their use perhaps heralds a new creativity in gourmands.

olivier-cresp

Olivier Cresp

Equinox Bloom opens with the Chantilly SmellTheTaste providing a luscious Chantilly cake in scented form. By itself it would be too sweet so M. Cresp uses violet leaves to pull back on the sugary intensity. The heart is the floral bouquet. Neroli, jasmine, frangipani, and orange blossom. I think M. Cresp made a nice choice of florals to represent spring instead of falling back on rose. The neroli and frangipani bracket the Chantilly SmellTheTaste forming that tea cake accord M. Cresp wanted. If M. Cresp was trying to keep the sweetness at bay early on by the time we get to the base notes he has unleashed the Brown Sugar SmellTheTaste. It feels like the crystalline particles are present on my skin. This is going to break Equinox Bloom for people who are not fond of sweet perfumes. Benzoin and ambroxan finish out the construction of Equinox Bloom.

Equinox Bloom has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Based on this first experience with the SmellTheTaste molecules I am looking forward to see which other food extracts Firmenich has to be used. The two used in Equinox Bloom make it worth thinking of as an alternative to all those other spring rose fragrances.

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

Mark Behnke

Esxence 2016 Day 3 Wrap-Up- Renegades, Duchamp, and Bacon

Day 3 began with a lecture by Michael Edwards of Fragrances of the World capturing the last ten years of the Artisanal Fragrance sector. I knew the market had really taken off over the last ten years. In 2006 there were 261 new artisanal releases. In 2016 there were 874 new releases. That’s not total that’s added to what was already there. Mr. Edwards challenged the brands who were in the room to look for opportunities to strike out in different places. He illustrated the point by showing that over a third of these new releases are florals. There is room for artistic expression in this sector and Mr. Edwards is one of the few who can show the hard numbers. It was a fantastic way to begin the day.

Michael Edwards Esxence 2016

Michael Edwards Speaking at Esxence 2016

The next stop of Esxence 2016 was three years in the making. At Esxence 2013 perfumers Mark Buxton, Bertrand Duchaufour, and Geza Schoen announced they were teaming up for a project together. Finally Project Renegades has arrived where each of these gifted perfumers created a personal fragrance of their own. When I asked them what took so long the answer were those magnetic heads on the front of the bottles you see below. Each of them had their face scanned in 3-D to replicate their features as renegades. They were worth waiting for because I will never not see these three without a cowboy hat from now on. The perfumes are pretty great too.

Renegades bottles

Project Renegades Bottles

Next I visited with Sophie Gabriel and perfumer Alexandra Monet of The Different Company. The new release Adjutay comes from creative director Luc Gabriel’s life. On a trip he left some fresh tuberose in his leather suitcase. When he took it down again he was greeted with a mix of tuberose and leather. Mme Monet has recreated that visual spectacularly. The leather accord encases the rich tuberose. Easily one of my favorites.

Last year Maria Candida Gentile put a rose with elephants on Africa. For 2016 she takes inspiration from Marcel Duchamp for Rrose Selavy. This version of a rose by Sig.ra Gentile is nothing but rose as every part of the plant and no less than five different extracts of the flower itself are combined into a rose worthy of its inspiration.

Nishane Isatanbul had two new releases but the Shisha bar in a bottle called Fan Your Flames did just that for me. Tobacco, rum, and spices made me feel like I was relaxing in an easy chair, hookah next to me.

It was getting late and I had had a couple of my fellow bloggers tell me not to miss the new brand Homoelegans. I was greeted by the owners and creative directors Francesco Gini and Mauricio Piazzi. They have started their effort with two releases Tadzio and Quality of Flesh. The latter is inspired by Francis Bacon and how much of his artistic work was done in triptych. Of course perfume is also done in triptych with a top, heart, and base. Quality of Flesh represents that with three well-built accords focused around juniper berry, narcissus, and leather.

I was at the end of the day and as always it was difficult to say arrivaderci to my perfumed family. After making one final round of the exposition to get my final hugs I walked out into the evening sunlight. Arrivaderci Esxence, see you next year.

Mark Behnke

Esxence 2016 Day 2 Wrap-Up- Cologne of the Night to Dark Chocolate

One of the perfumes I was most excited to try prior to arriving at Esxence 2016 was where I began Day 2. At Esxence 2014 I learned of Nicolas Chabot’s resurrection of Le Galion and was impressed by his dedication to returning a heritage brand so faithfully. As impressed as I was with that; over the two years since M. Chabot has delivered modern new creations in the brand’s style. The two newest are from perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux called Cologne and Cologne Nocturne. Cologne is a classically executed version of the style. Cologne Nocturne is Sr. Flores-Roux’s version of a Cologne Nouveau which takes cologne from the light of day and through a heart of spicy lavender deep into the darkness of patchouli.

Luca Maffei is one of those precocious young talents who with each new release I find new respect for. When I stopped by Masque Milano to try the new L’Attesa I received something completely surprising. Co-owner/creative director Alessandro Brun handed me a card with the perfume sprayed upon it and talked about it being an iris fragrance which would float on a surface of a unique champagne accord. Sig. Maffei wasn’t looking to recreate the bubbly effervescence of the finished product. Instead his accord would be earlier when the champagne is fermenting with a bit of the yeasty lees apparent making it more sour. It is a perfect complement to the three rich sources of orris used. When I asked about the creation of this accord I was informed the key ingredient was a CO2 extract of beer. This is a fascinating new riff on iris from a brand who is excelling at using young talent.

Of course the perfumers who have been part of the artistic perfumery movement from its earliest days are also not to be overlooked. Mark Buxton showed me his Rock and Roll rose called A Day in My Life. It is a densely layered rose which deepened the longer it stayed on my skin.

art and olfaction awards logo

At this time I was part of the panel who presented the finalists for this year’s The Art and Olfaction Awards. I was one of the finalist judges this year and I was very curious to find out what it was I had been judging in those anonymous little vials a month ago. Here is the list of this year’s Finalists:

Artisan

Albino (A Study in White)- DSH Perfumes

Bird of Paradise- Thorn & Bloom Perfume

Cape Cod Wild Beach Rose- Nomaterra

Incendo- La Curie

Love for 3 Oranges- Aether Arts Perfume

Miyako- Auphorie

Musk Rose Attar- Rising Phoenix Perfumery

Namibia- Frazer Parfum

Peach Tree Garden- Phoenix Botanicals

Salome- Papillon Perfumery

Independent

Panorama- Olfactive Studio

Waiheke Dreams- Juliana Parfums Co.

Fougere Nobile- Nobile 1942

Salim Attar- Tabacora Parfums

Nea- Jul et Mad

Past | Presence- Roads

Dark Ride- Xyrena

Elephant & Roses- Maria Candida Gentile

Rose de Taif Extract- Perris Monte Carlo

Bat- Zoologist Perfumes

Experimental

Century’s Breath- Cat Jones

Dark Enemy- Christy Gast

The Juice of War- Maki Ueda

Signal- Carrie Peterson

Western Drive- Kellen Walker

Being part of this process has been one of the highlights of my time writing about perfume. Now I get to go back to being a fan waiting to see who the winners are in a month’s time.

After the announcement it was back out to try a new brand Sammarco. Owner perfumer Giovanni Sammarco has opened with four releases. The one which caught my attention was Bond-T. Inspired by a visit to a chocolate factory Sig. Sammarco has gone Willy Wonka with a mix of deep cocoa, patchouli, tobacco, and osmanthus. The osmanthus is the note which pulls this together into something very interesting. The apricot character provides a bit of leavening fruitiness the leathery nature of osmanthus provides an animalic grace note. A really nice way to end my day encased in a shell of dark chocolate.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my last day at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

Esxence 2016 Day 1 Wrap-Up- A Tale of Two Mediterraneans

First day of any of the big perfume expositions is a time for renewing friendships in fragrance. My day started out being introduced to a new aquatic perfume from Bruno Acampora called Azzurro di Capri. When it was presented to me I again had my skepticism of this genre front and center. What I found was a typical Mediterranean seaside opening but the drydown to a base of musk, patchouli, and amber is what elevated this above others within this style.

After surveying the layout of the fair I headed to the first panel of this year’s Esxence. Moderated by Professor Claus Noppeney of the Scent Culture Institute it was on the way perfume is judged and criticized. On the panel were Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison Managing Editor of Fragrantica, Saskia Wilson-Brown of The Art + Olfaction Awards, and Dr. Bodo Kubartz. Dr. Harrison eloquently described the personal connection bloggers provide via their writing. By giving regular readers that context it allows for the concept of perfume as an art form worthy of this kind of judgement. The flip side of that was explored with the idea of judgement as the end goal within the framework of awards. There, by necessity, for a fair judgement to take place as much of the context and surroundings of a perfume being assessed needs to be removed. It was a spirited discussion among the panelists making it a great way to start conversations that I would have for most of the rest of the day as I walked the show floor.

bruno acampora azzurro di capri

After the talk it was time to get back on to the hunt for new releases from some of my favorite brands.

I stopped in at Atelier des Ors and was presented with a sneak preview of their upcoming iris and musk release. This is a brand that has quickly developed a distinct aesthetic. What I smelled in its preliminary forms looks to me like this next release is going to be another winner.

I then stopped by to meet the team behind Coolife Carole Beaupre and Pauline Rochas. I am a big fan of the most recent release Le Quatrieme Parfum. Perfumer Yann Vasnier turned in a beautifully realized Oriental. For Le Cinquieme Parfum the communication chakra is represented, again by M. Vasnier, in a really vibrant and kinetic composition.

Of course the chemist was excited to stop by Nu_Be to try the latest elemental release Curium. I also found the name of the brand is also undergoing a change to One of Those. The brand name may change but the new perfume by perfumer Evelyne Boulanger is an extension of the Elemental series. Opening with a fantastic ambrette into a vetiver focused fragrance. It isn’t radioactive but it sure does glow.

As the day was drawing to a close I collapsed on a couch in front of Carner Barcelona. They saw my tired look and brought to me the new release from them, Costarela. Perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu added little twists to this classically constructed Mediterranean-style aquatic. The use of saffron along with the more typical bergamot in the opening is what revs things up for the eventual sea breeze and amber finish.

Day 1 opened and closed with two very different yet enjoyable interpretations of Mediterranean aquatics. For Day 2 I’ll start diving in to the new brands while catching up to some other new releases from established ones.

Mark Behnke