The 2016 Tea Interval

In the test match which comprises a year in perfumery we’ve reached the Tea Interval. A time to sit back and consider all that has happened over the first half of the year. Also to think about what it means for the remaining six months.

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Millennials in the Driver’s Seat

2016 might go down as the pivot point when the Millennials finally take over the cultural zeitgeist from the Baby Boomers. In perfume there has been no more prevalent trend from the larger fragrance producers. Every major brand is trying to make the first perfume to be adopted by this generation. While it is clear to me that the companies were aware of the change coming it is also equally clear they are not sure what it is they desire in a fragrance.

The most common choice has been for what I would describe as a floral gourmand, mainly constructed around a sugared floral and a distinct gourmand note which is kept at an opaquer level. Examples include Dior Poison Girl, Thierry Mugler Angel Muse, and Derek Lam 10 Crosby 2AM Kiss.

I have spoken with many in the industry and they are very aware of this. The open question is who will make the breakthrough. Probably the most interesting mass market launch of the back half of 2016 is Chanel No. 5 L’Eau where the grand maison is expressly trying to make a version of the classic for the Millennials. As I sip my cuppa I can’t wait to see how this particular trend continues to evolve.

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Acquisition is Still in Play

Estee Lauder has continued their insertion into the niche market by acquiring By Kilian in February. L’Oreal for fear of being left behind, perhaps, has joined the fray acquiring Atelier Cologne at the end of June. The niche market has been seen as a growth sector within fragrance which is why these large companies are cherry picking the top brands.

One other point is to be made before the moneychangers all begin to believe there is easy money in the perfumed temple. Every single one of these acquisitions over the past two or so years has been the result of brands which have created a distinct identity within this overcrowded market. As hard as it is to make a memorable perfume I believe it is even more difficult to create an indelible brand. I think it is a combination of perfume and brand which is driving these purchases.

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The Roses of 2016

If there is any note I have smelled too much of so far this year it is rose. I have smelled so much of that fresh debutante rose I just want to take her out and muss her perfect hair up. One silver lining to a crush of insipid Barbie-style roses is the ones which aspire to more, stand out. So far this year that means Amouage Opus X, Maria Candida Gentile Rrose Selavy, and Annick Goutal Rose Pompon.

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Indie Perfumery is Thriving in 2016

There is so much to celebrate within the indie sector it is hard to pick a place to start. The diversity on display at the Art and Olfaction Awards and the connected AIX Scent Fair attached to it showed this off. If there is a place which embraces the water park of Xyrena Dark Ride and the glorious osmanthus of Auphorie Miyako it must be healthy.

The co-creation between Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni, Cadavre Exquis, has proved to be one of the more fascinating releases of the entire year.

Indie still needs a perfume to make the crossover to the mall for it to really explode. The latest to take up this challenge is Christi Meshell as her House of Matriarch fragrances are currently being sold in Nordstrom.

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The Odd is Becoming Commonplace

Usually there are just a few releases which stand out because they take a risk in using an unusual material or two. 2016 has shown creative directors in a particularly adventurous state of mind as they let the perfumers they work with use something different. The best examples come from two of the perfumes which I consider to be the best of 2016 so far.

Masque L’Attesa employs a champagne accord that is not about the bubbly finished product. Instead it is about the yeasty flat, slightly sour, fermenting wine. Perfumer Luca Maffei and creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi decided to use this accord as the foundation for iris to float upon.

Creative Director Victor Wong and perfumer Ellen Covey conspired to bring a dank cave full of flying rodents to life in Zoologist Bat. To make that more appealing than it sounds they worked hard to find a balance between realism and impression. Bat succeeds so well because it mixes the wet soil of geosmin with an animalic accord for the realistic part. Myrrh, sandalwood, and leather provide an impressionistic version of the bat.

My tea is finished. Time to return to the game for 2016. I hope the remaining innings are as good as the early ones have been.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Pearl Oud- Free to be Oud

Like many of the ultra-luxe perfume brands By Kilian has gone the route of city exclusives. I maintain these are highly annoying decisions when after working to get a sample I find I really like it. By Kilian also understands this frustration and like many other brands who do this offer an infrequent opportunity to buy them outside of their featured cities. By Kilian has released six of these exclusives. As a whole they have been solid perfumes which have a definitive connection to the city where they are sold. None of them had grabbed me so much I felt the need to own a bottle; then I tried Pearl Oud.

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Kilian Hennessy

I generally have been pretty satisfied with the majority of the perfumes which make up the By Kilian collections. Creative director Kilian Hennessy has expanded the brand aesthetic in positive ways. My favorite collection is the Arabian Nights Collection. Over eight perfumes released from 2009-2014 oud has been explored thoroughly. Rose Oud had been my favorite. It is one of my “formal” scents as it is one of the most refined rose and oud combos I own. One of the biggest differences between Rose Oud and Pearl Oud is the former is an oud accord of cypriol and cedar while Pearl Oud starts and finishes with authentic Indian oud. That oud accord is particularly used when looking for a more approachable oud. Pearl Oud wants none of that this is an oud construct which revels in its rough edges.

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Christian Provenzano

Perfumer Christian Provenzano was asked to provide a fragrance which represents Doha the capital of Qatar. With Pearl Oud he echoes some of what I like so much in Rose Oud while striking out in a generally more adventurous direction. This ends up making Pearl Oud a more satisfying perfume for that adventurousness.

The Indian oud is present right from the first moments right through until the very end. This is an authentic oud source and it seems like it is here in decent quantity. The most telling difference between the real thing and the accord is the depth of the natural material. It is that depth that M. Provenzano uses as a place to hang different notes throughout the evolution of Pearl Oud. The first pair is a mixture of spices in black pepper and saffron. The black pepper picks up on the spiciness in the resinous core of the oud. The saffron plays off of the subtler aspects adding a dusty warmth. The heart is a trio of florals although really only two rise to prominence. Rose, orris, and ylang-ylang are there but it is the first two which are the driving force. Turkish rose continues the exploration of the spicier side of oud. The orris is a special surprise as it powders the oud attempting to paper over some of the rough edges. For a short while it seems like it just might tame the beast. That is until M. Provenzano adds castoreum to make sure this beast is not domesticated. The final hours of Pearl Oud are an animalic oud accord which stalks like a caged animal.

Pearl Oud has 20-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Pearl Oud is a city exclusive and as such is not considered a part of the Arabian Nights collection; but it surely is kindred to those perfumes. I think this is the best oud perfume from By Kilian because M. Provenzano lets the oud free to be itself. I have taken advantage of the current worldwide availability of the By Kilian city exclusives for the summer to make sure I have a bottle. If you have been a fan of the other Arabian Nights fragrances this is one you should sample to see if it is as compelling to you.

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

Mark Behnke