New Perfume Review: Joy by Dior- Shaking My Head

11

When it comes to my favorite dead brand, Jean Patou, I am a bit like Charlie Brown and Lucy when it comes to her holding a football for him to kick. Every time I think I will get some gratification only to find myself on my back looking at the sky. About a month ago I read that Jean Patou had been acquired by LVMH. What was odd was it had been done in such a way that people only learned of it well after the fact of the acquisition. Why was that? The press release announcing it was appropriately hopeful about giving the brand an elevated profile. Then the truth came about two weeks later when I got a press release announcing the new release from Dior; Joy by Dior. They acquired Jean Patou so they wouldn’t have to have any problems with the name of their new perfume.

Jean Patou Joy is one of the acknowledged masterpieces of perfumery. It is seen as one of the greatest perfumes ever. Because Patou has been so decimated as a brand it is not as cherished as its other contemporaries. Which is why it is puzzling why Dior would make the decision to produce a new perfume with the same name of a masterpiece. The cynic in me says because they’ve unleashed their market research staff and found out most consumers have no idea there is a previous classic perfume called Joy. Which fits with the perfume that has been produced. Joy by Dior is a good perfume put together via the perfume assembly line of focus groups and market research; as cynical as it gets in other words.

Francois Demachy

Francois Demachy the in-house perfumer at Dior is responsible for Joy by Dior. It is very simple, very fresh, and very derivative. M. Demachy chose to create a mash-up of two huge best-sellers. The citrus opening is straight out of Chanel Allure and the floral heart is Dior J’Adore. In other words, it is just a re-tread. This has become a disturbing trend that has bled over into niche perfumery (Try the new Serge Lutens for an example). If you want a crowd-pleasing top seller just combine some of the best accords from your past, or another brand’s, and toss them together into a “new” perfume. Count on the consumer to just go with the happy flow. Voila! You have Joy by Dior.

The top is citrus. Studies say everyone loves citrus. M. Demachy blends a slightly bitter orange version. Flowers, everyone loves flowers; especially rose and jasmine. Yes, but don’t make them too heavy that makes people uncomfortable. It also might remind them of that other Joy. So, make sure the rose and jasmine are composed of expansive synthetic versions. What's the safest base we can use? Oh yes, another synthetic sandalwood wrapped in linen musks to make this as soft as can be. Because above all we want you to feel comfortable with your purchase.

Joy by Dior has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Of all the big brands Dior has been the one which has been the most openly cynical about the mass-market consumer. The whole Miss Dior Cherie-Miss Dior debacle is a prime example. Joy by Dior joins that list of dubious distinction.

Bottom line, Joy by Dior is going to sell like crazy. It is a perfume for people who don’t like perfume but still want to wear perfume. It is going to find its way into Holiday presents galore. If it isn’t the best-selling new perfume this upcoming shopping season, I’ll be shocked. It is why I’ll be shaking my head every time I smell it in the mall for the rest of the year.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Dior.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Joy of the Unreliable Narrator

As I have been watching the HBO series “Sharp Objects” I have come to realize how much I enjoy the practice of using an unreliable narrator to tell a story. For most stories which are told they come from the recollection of a character who acts as the eyes of the reader/viewer. They take us along with them into whatever plot is unspooling. We trust them to tell us what they are seeing and feeling accurately. When a writer employs an unreliable narrator there is something that is being hidden in what they share with us. Author Gillian Flynn used the technique in her 2012 novel “Gone Girl”. It was so successful there that when it was shown to me it was one of those moments where I put my finger in the book and said “Wow!” out loud. “Sharp Objects” is based on a subsequent novel, by Ms. Flynn, and with one episode to go I think I’m dealing with multiple unreliable narrators. I had forgotten how much fun it is to try and piece together reality from the fiction we are being fed by the characters. I can’t wait to see what plays out in the finale.

I usually like to keep spoilers out of what I write but this time I fear the rest of this column is one king-sized spoiler.

My first encounter with an unreliable narrator came in one of Agatha Christie’s novels featuring her detective Hercule Poirot. At the beginning of the book I thought it was such a clever device to have the narrator be someone who had hired M. Poirot. By the end of the book it turns out the narrator was the killer. Coming in the 1920’s it was influential on the mystery writing genre. The book, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” was voted the best crime novel ever in 2013 by the British Crime Writers’ Association.

The unreliable narrator is especially compelling when you’re still not sure if what you’ve read is at all real. “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk and “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis take us on an internal monologue narrated by two sociopaths; or do they? Have our narrators literally taken us for fools? We have been shown it is in their nature.

One which is heartbreaking in its revelation comes in the last act of “The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. The narrator tells a fantastical story of surviving a shipwreck in a lifeboat with a full-grown tiger. This takes up the middle section of the book. When the narrator has been rescued he is presented with evidence, by those interviewing him, of an alternate version of events. The narrator asks the interviewers if they prefer the fantasy over the reality. By this point the reader knows the answer.

I don’t want a consistent diet of these kind of stories, but the infrequent use always allows for the final pages to contain those precious “Wow!” moments. I have a feeling the finale of “Sharp Objects” has one in store for me.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Daydream in Blue- Fulfilled Desire

On my recent visit to Boulder, Colorado I finally had the opportunity to spend some time with independent perfumer Amber Jobin. We have corresponded digitally over many years. This was the first time we were in the same place where we could relax. One of the things about independent perfumery is that through an artist’s perfumes you can get a picture of who they are. Ms. Jobin exceeded what I expected to find.

Ms. Jobin has come to perfumery through the crucible of the yearly Burning Man event. She has attended for several years and began offering custom fragrance blends as part of her contribution to the temporary society the event represents. She also creates a distinct “Burner” perfume each year based on the theme of the given year. It was through these early fragrances I became aware of her. As a student of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, and now a colleague in her Essense Studio, Ms. Jobin was uncommonly polished in her early work. If there is a common aesthetic that ties her perfumes together it is curious intelligence; which might be redundant. Ms. Jobin has been able to distill the abstract into perfume. At its base it is what all perfumers are doing. It is just Ms. Jobin does it with a little more verve. Of her most recent releases Aether Arts Perfume Daydream in Blue displays this.

(l. to r.) Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Me, Amber Jobin

The perfume was inspired by the song “Daydream in Blue” by the band I Monster. Ms. Jobin realized it was a song about daydreaming while in a field of wildflowers, but this reverie is a sexual one. It is unrequited because the dreamer’s partner is only present in the imagination. Ms. Jobin imagines the dreamer having an actual partner for whom that desire can be acted upon amongst the literal birds and bees doing their work pollinating things. She says in her press release, “I loved the idea of a pretty experience wrapped around a deeply erotic one.” This is exactly that.

The early moments of Daydream in Blue set the stage with a gentle floral accord matched with some of the grassy ingredients. It is a sun dappled meadow. Through an incredibly constructed accord Ms. Jobin captures the entire experience of making love outside. Her main accord is comprised of deer musk, civet, and costus. It is the balance she achieves with that last note that brings the whole thing together. Costus is a tricky note to get right. For Ms. Jobin she actually wanted to capture a fully realized erotic moment which means the smell of semen on sun warmed skin. I can hear some readers thinking that doesn’t sound great. Ms. Jobin has an ability to find beauty out of what I described. It especially comes home when the florals and grassy notes reappear around that animalic accord as nature returns after passion.

Daydream in Blue has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is what sets independent perfumery apart. The ability for a perfumer to take on a subject like this. I giggle to myself when I imagine one of those people spritzing perfume trying to describe this as they hand a strip to a mallgoer. This is perfume for those of us who see it as an art form as well as something to make us smell pleasant. Daydream in Blue succeeds on both of those levels. I adore much of what Ms. Jobin has created over the years but this one has also exceeded my expectations fulfilling desires of all sorts.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review aroma M Geisha Botan- Geisha at Work

More than their commercial counterparts, independent perfumers are storytellers. Through their creations you also get glimpses into personalities and histories of the artist behind them. Having a story underneath what you’re wearing adds something to the experience. One independent perfumer whose story I have connected with is Maria McElroy of aroma M.

Ms. McElroy lived in Tokyo, Japan in the 1980’s. That Japanese aesthetic has been the foundation upon which she has built her brand. Many of her perfumes carry the word “geisha” within them. As I have tried each one I have imagined the story of a fictional geisha. It has become part of the anticipation of any new release that I will have an opportunity to allow my imagination to travel to visit this lady of perfume. aroma M Geisha Botan is the latest chance for me to do this.

Maria McElroy

In the press release accompanying my sample Ms. McElroy tells of her affection for pink peonies that she acquired during her time in Tokyo. Botan is the Japanese word for peony. We have our own pink peonies which burst to life each spring along our front walkway. I share Ms. McElroy’s fascination with the flower. The dense layered flower which will eventually open to reveal a fuller beauty is like a geisha of the floral world; only when you get to know it better does it truly reveal its charms.

Geisha Botan uses rose to support the peony in the early going. It gives some heft to one of the more delicate floral ingredients. It also allows it to float upon the pool of sandalwood and vanilla which make up the heart. Over time an earthy quality slowly intersperses itself into the construct. A final dollop of animalic musk finishes everything.

In her previous releases my imaginary geisha has been enjoying some time off. With Geisha Botan it feels like she is back at work. As I’ve done in the past I will weave a description of the perfume within a little story.

It was nice to have spring back. Walking by Ueno Park and seeing the peonies in full bloom made her smile. As she entered the okiya she decided would use her special botan formulation to scent herself for the evening. She had worked on it for years finding the right rose to provide depth to her peony extract. To find the right balance was a tricky thing but it was worth it. Her client for the night always smiled when he picked up the top accord as she served tea to him. The peony tattooed on her forearm just visible under her sleeve as she offered the bowl to him. He breathed in followed by a nod. “Your perfume is more intoxicating than the tea.” As I played the samisen for him I observed him breathing deeply as the vanilla and sandalwood comforted him along with the music. By the time he was ready to leave the slightly musky scent remianing heightened the anticipation for our next meeting.

Geisha Botan has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. McElroy has become a much more assured perfumer over the years. Geisha Botan is among her best work. The mixture of spring-like florals on top of vanilla and sandalwood is going to make this an ideal fall perfume as the air begins to cool. You can take my imaginary geisha along with you.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by aroma M.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Antique Ambergris- Perfume Scrimshaw

We did one of those trips through New England when I was a young boy. One of the destinations I was looking forward to was Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. While most of my friends were big on dinosaurs; I was all about whales. Ever since the factoid of the blue whale being the largest animal on Earth lodged in my head that was my giant animal of choice.

Mystic Seaport is a museum dedicated to the New England whaling business. As we walked through the grounds there were two things which caught my attention; scrimshaw and ambergris. Scrimshaw was engraving done on the ivory they harvested from the whales they caught. I was transfixed by an innate ancient quality of the pieces on display. The etching was fabulously intricate in depicting the ships they were on. I would buy a silver ring with a small piece of scrimshaw in it. It was my first piece of jewelry. The second thing was exactly the thing that would intrigue a young boy when I was asked if I wanted to smell whale vomit. “Yes, please” as I waved my hand frantically. I don’t know what I expected but what I smelled was something which smelled of the ocean more than upchuck. Although it was plenty stinky enough to satisfy my adolescent anticipation. When Mandy Aftel contacted me to tell me her latest perfume, Aftelier Perfumes Antique Ambergris, was on the way my now more mature anticipation was piqued.

Mandy Aftel

Ms. Aftel is one of the crown jewels of the American independent perfume community. She was one of the first. She has been giving, as a teacher and a writer, of her knowledge. She also runs the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents. One of the stars of that collection is a 100-year-old bottle of antique Ambreine. Now you might think that’s a typo, but it isn’t. Ambreine is the chemical which makes up the floating piece of whale excretion which becomes ambergris. Ambreine in its pure form has no scent. Once it is set forth to float upon the sea, exposed to sun, and eventually to beach itself; the molecule is designed to undergo multiple chemical reactions as the ambreine reacts in multiple directions. The longer it is exposed the more complex the mixture. Once you smell a long-aged sample it will draw you in with its kaleidoscopic nature.

At the request of Ms. Aftel’s best friend, who had fallen hard for the old bottle of ambreine, she decided to create a perfume. This is what has become Antique Ambergris. I also love the idea of a perfume which is based on ancient ingredients is produced as a solid perfume. Ms. Aftel is one of the few producing solid perfumes and I find the tactile quality of smearing a dab very sensual. I know they are difficult to do but for this perfume it fit so well.

After spreading some Antique Ambergris on my skin, the aged ambergris Ms. Aftel uses floats to the top. This is not the century old version from the museum, but it is plenty old enough to be compelling. What is amazing about older perfume ingredients like this is the multitude of grace notes which surround them. Ms. Aftel calls them “phantom notes” but these are way more substantial than flitting wraiths They provide shading impossible to be replicated without having aged. This kind of experience is tripled by her adding in antique civet and aged cypress absolute. As these all come together the essential quality of ambergris, civet, and cypress are there, but it is the grace notes which provide the joy of Antique Ambergris as it develops over hours on my skin. These three notes are supported by a sturdy coumarin but it really is just a pedestal for the stars of the show.

Antique Ambergris has 10-12 hour longevity and low sillage.

Antique Ambergris is an example of what the best independent perfumers can produce with small batch ingredients. There is almost nowhere else something like Antique Ambergris could come from. Ms. Aftel captures the ancient art of scrimshaw with an exquisite perfume etching of antiquity.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Imaginary Authors Sundrunk- Summer of 69

When you are a child the summer months are a treat. There is no school only the horizon of how far you can travel on your bicycle. Growing up in South Florida it seemed like the world was just in front of my handlebars. The best part was being joined by your friends. By the time August rolled around our skin was tanned and our hair was sun bleached. For some reason several of my friends had birthdays in August. In 1969 that was a big year we were moving from the single digit of nine to the vastly mature double digits of ten. This was also the summer when I had my first kiss. I remember leaning forward into it at a birthday party game of Spin the Bottle. There was one girl I was beginning to notice. When she spun the bottle and the neck pointed at me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it right. As we leaned into the center of the circle the sun glinted off the bottle. It felt like I was surrounded in a bright light. When our lips met, at first softly, before we pressed together with a little pressure I felt a whirl of emotion. I leaned back with a smile as the girl smiled back. Her lip gloss remained on my lips. I was light headed. I never had a word for this but now I do courtesy of Imaginary Authors Sundrunk.

Josh Meyer

I have enjoyed watching independent perfumer Josh Meyer develop into one of the best we have.  Over the seventeen perfumes he had released prior to Sundrunk he has continually refined the Imaginary Authors aesthetic which was in place from the beginning. I think he has come close to perfecting it over the last couple of years producing some exemplary fragrances. Sundrunk is a bit of a departure. It might be amusing when I say it is Mr. Meyer’s most light-hearted perfume to date. Especially on a brand which uses imaginary prose from imaginary writers to create very real fragrance. Sundrunk departs from the previous formula because it is such an innocent days of summer style. There is a simple pleasure to everything about it.

Sundrunk starts off with an orange sherbet accord. Neroli and rhubarb are sprinkled with orange zest to form a crystalline delicate orange scented accord. It is like having a sugar cone with a couple scoops perched on top. It is simply beautifully achieved. Mr. Meyer then adds in a watery floral accord of honeysuckle and rose water. This is the sweet scent of nature wrapping itself around the frozen treat. I would have been thrilled with this, but Mr. Meyer adds in a “first kiss” accord. This is a very gentle sun-warmed skin musk. As sensual as that first touch of lips over a sparkling empty soda bottle.

Sundrunk has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Every time I’ve worn Sundrunk I am on my Spyder three-speed in the summer of 1969. On my way to a birthday party where I will experience my first kiss. Any perfume that can take me back to that moment is magical.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Imaginary Authors.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums Jazmin Sarai Nar and Mare- Arabic not Oriental

I remember meeting independent perfumer Dana El Masri at one of the Elements Showcase events in New York City in the early 2010’s. We sat next to each other in the lounge area and began to talk. There are moments when I meet people who exude passion for perfume; this was one of them. Our conversation ricocheted through many subjects. It was so interesting that we had forgotten to say what we were doing there. I introduced myself as a blogger for CaFleureBon. She told me she was an independent perfumer looking to make connections. I thought to myself if she can channel her passion into a perfume it will be something great. Her brand Jazmin Sarai made its debut in 2014. The perfumes she has released have lived up to my expectations. I received her latest two releases, Nar and Mare, with anticipation.

Dana El Masri

When it comes to independent perfumery Ms. El Masri carries a couple different perspectives into her fragrances. One is formal training. She graduated from the Grasse Institute of Perfumery in 2010. The second is she is one of only a few Arabic women making perfume I am aware of. This is critical to these two new perfumes which she calls The Tarab Duet. When this part of the world is interpreted by Western perfume brands it is through the eyes of travelers to produce Oriental type perfumes. When Ms. El Masri works on an Arabic perfume it is inspired by her genetics. Pair that with perfume training to produce something authentically Arabic.

All Jazmin Sarai releases are based on musical themes. For Nar it is the music of Ms. El Masri’s grandparents’ wedding day. On that occasion the bride requested of singer Abdel Halim Hafez to sing Hobak Nar (Your Love is Fire). She works only with five ingredients to capture the call and response of this type of Arabic singing. The call throughout its development is an ever diminishing “burning embers” accord. The response is formed in three different stanzas.

Nar opens with a swirl of smoke. This is where the training of Ms. El Masri shines brightly. Many independent perfumers when they add a smoke effect it comes off like sitting next to a campfire when the wind shifts in your direction. This is a smoke accord of diffusion. The first time it calls out, the woody herbal-ness of coriander responds. The second call finds a clean woody riposte of cedar and guaiac. The final iteration finds a warm amber complementing the cooling embers. It is the kind of simple construction which belies its complexity because of Ms. El Masri’s skill.

For Mare the inspiration is one of the most famous Arabic singers Fairuz. She is also a favorite of Ms. El Masri’s father. The song is Shayef El Bahr Shoo Kbeer (See the Sea). It refers to the strand in Beirut, Lebanion. This is an oceanside which has mountains running right up to the beach. It is still a Mediterranean style of perfume just one from the Arabic side of the Sea.

Mare opens with a classic Mediterranean accord of lemon and neroli. To this she sends a strong sea accord breeze. This is where it is different. It is more expansive as the sea breeze rides up the nearby slopes to curl back down with a bit of chilliness. The other touch of the Beirut mise-en-scene is the licorice booziness of the Lebanese ouzo analog, Arak. It provides a tiny bit of bite to the airiness of the top accord. Fig returns Mare to a more traditional Mediterranean construction before finishing with the cedar tree in the center of the Lebanese flag.

Both perfumes have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

One of the beautiful things about independent perfumery is it allows each artist to explore their influences. Ms. El Masri is emblematic of that. For Nar and Mare she allows us to experience Arabic perfume not Oriental.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Jazmin Sarai.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Summer Cologne- The Joy of Cologne

When did cologne became a bad word? It is like the dirty secret of fragrance. There are perfume brands that turn up their nose at making a “cologne”. There are consumers that don’t want to buy a “cologne”. There are bloggers who won’t write about “cologne”. I suspect one reason is our male family members and friends wore too much perfume in the 1970’s and 80’s. The unfortunate part was anything a man wore in those days was called “cologne”. There are still some vestiges of that attitude floating around which has manifested in the I don’t make/buy/cover “cologne” constituency. Its too bad for them because especially over the past five or six years we have seen the humble cologne formulation be dramatically altered while still remaining true to being a cologne, without the quotes. Unfortunately, many independent perfumers shy away from cologne.Because of this most of the innovation has happened in a few specific brands. Selfishly I want some of my favorite small brands to take a shot at a cologne; DSH Perfumes Summer Cologne does that.

The very origin of cologne comes from an Alpine walk of the creator Jean Marie Farina. He wanted something he could splash on which would be as refreshing as a walk through a mountain meadow. The very simple formula of citrus, floral, and herbal components has been a staple of perfumery. Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, who is also a lover of perfume history, has made Summer Cologne a perfume of summer activity, as well. Except she isn’t going for a walk in the Rockies around her Boulder, Colorado studio. She is working in the garden with her tomato plants. She uses tomato leaf as the keynote around which she builds her version of cologne.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

It opens with a traditional citrus trio of bergamot, lemon, and bitter orange. This is a time-tested top accord. Ms. Hurwitz adds a bit of ambrette seed for a bit of muskiness underneath; it picks up on the clean sweat ideal of working in the garden. The tomato leaf steps forward in place of the typical herbal part of the traditional cologne recipe. It still carries a greenness along with a tart acerbic quality. She uses judicious quantities of vetiver and blackcurrant bud to buoy up the tomato leaf. The orange blossom which has become synonymous with cologne provides the floral part. This is also supported with a nice neroli to provide a thread of green to connect back to the tomato leaf. The final part is to stake all of this into an earthy patchouli in the base.

Summer Cologne has 6-8 hour longevity and low sillage.

Summer Cologne remedies that bugaboo of filling up a room with your fragrance; it is a real skin scent. It was my personal perfume on the summer days I wore it. It was the ideal companion in the heat, refreshing without being overwhelming. If you are one of the people who are not interested in “cologne” give Summer Cologne a try you might find some joy in an unexpected place.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Very, Very, Late Summer of 2018 Playlist

Ever since I started writing The Sunday Magazine I wanted to keep a reminder of my favorite songs of the summer as it was happening. What that has meant is usually early in June I share my current playlist that is on repeat rotation. I’m not sure what happened this year, but it only occurred to me recently I hadn’t done the 2018 version. My problem is at this stage of the summer I’m down to two or three songs as I start dropping songs until I have only the prime earworms cued up. With all of that intro this is going to be a very short playlist, but it is the three songs by which I will indelibly remember the summer of 2018.

If there is one theme to the three songs it was that I had heard them well before the start of the summer.

It was in a Target commercial during the Super Bowl that the collaboration between country singer Maren Morris with Electronic Dance Music (EDM) duo Grey and producer Zedd which produced the song “The Middle”. In a 90-second commercial the song was an earworm which hibernated until the weather warmed up. It doesn’t matter what I seem to be doing this summer but whatever it is I’m meeting it in the middle.

The second song which has lasted all the way through the summer came from watching “American Idol”. Singer Bebe Rexha sang a duet early in the competition and then on finale night joined the three finalists in a rendition of the song “Meant to Be”. The recorded version replaces the amateurs with country pair Florida-Georgia Line. That version has more of a country twang to it, which I usually dislike. For this summer it is the lyrics “if it’s meant to be it’ll be” which have become the warm weather mantra I needed.

When I didn’t know the title or who did the song I kept asking for the John Wayne song. The fact that every DJ I asked knew what I was talking about shows why High Horse by Kacey Musgraves is my third song. The sad thing is I would have known who did the song if I had paid attention a few weeks earlier when Ms. Musgraves performed it on Saturday Night Live. But she was a country singer and I walked out of the room. One of the DJ’s even told me it was Kacey Musgraves and I thought I hadn’t heard him correctly. This is not country music it is almost a 70’s throwback which could’ve packed the dance floor then like it does today. High Horse is all beat suffused with lyrical attitude; that’s good enough to make a summer staple for me.

Those who know me, and my musical taste will have to smile that my three songs feature country music artists in all of them. Not sure what to make of it except my damn playlist keeps recommending the kind of country music I don’t want to hear because of it. That these songs are worth suffering through that is why they make up my very, very late summer of 2018 playlist.

Mark Behnke

Independent Perfumery 2018

When I was really starting my descent into perfumed obsession in the early years of the 2000’s it started with the discovery of niche perfumes. What that meant to me were small brands with distinctive artistic aesthetics. Those early years of this century saw the rapid expansion of this style of perfume. Presenting themselves as an alternative to what was available at the mall. It was, and remains, part of the reason I enjoy perfume.

Then in 2006 on the blogs I follow there was mention of this new perfume from Switzerland. A young artist by the name of Andy Tauer had released a perfume called L’Air du Desert Marocain. My perfume world changed again. I discovered there was another world of fragrance makers who worked on their own; independent perfumers. It would be the acclaim for L’Air du Desert Marocain that pointed those who love perfume to a new place.

Every year I am struck by how vital this community is. What spurred me to write this column was my editorial calendar for the next week. One of many important lessons I learned from my Editor-in-Chief at CaFleureBon, Michelyn Camen, is the importance of keeping an editorial calendar. That means I have all the different days subjects planned out in advance. Sometime when I look at my white board I can see patterns which arise out of the list. Looking over next week’s list I saw six wonderful perfumes from six different established independent perfumers. It made me think about where we are now.

One of the things I write about a lot is the concept of a brand aesthetic. It should be easier when an independent perfumer is the only voice in the room. From experience I can tell you it is not. I try a dozen or so new independent brands a year. I provide private feedback which is just between the perfumer and I. One of the more common sentences I write is, “What are you trying to achieve besides smelling good?” The brands which have succeeded have almost always had a personal answer to that. The ones who ask me “What do you mean?” is probably a reason why they don’t succeed.

Proof this has succeeded is there is a part of Hr. Tauer’s perfumes which has been dubbed a “Tauer-ade”. There is a scented fingerprint which says where this perfume came from. The same can be said for Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. or Maria McElroy of Aroma M. I feel if I was handed any of these, and others, perfumes they are identifiable because of this. Independent perfumers can refine a personal vision over every release.

Mandy Aftel

Another more fractious aspect of independent perfumery is very few of them have any formal training. Like all artistic efforts there are the precocious few who are blessed with innate talent. For those the years spent making their perfumes provides its own kind of training; learning through trial and error. That same effort is also rewarded for those who learn entirely from that. Time can be a great leveler. Some of the early founders have become the teachers for those who are drawn to make their own perfume. Mandy Aftel has produced great perfume, under he Aftelier Perfumes label, and a wave of students from her California studio. AbdesSalaam Attar does the same in Europe.

One of the most important aspects of the current state of independent perfumery is the ability of the perfumers to use small batches of amazing ingredients. Particularly over the last few years there have been releases which are made from materials that have been gone from mainstream and niche perfumery due to the difficulty of sourcing enough to produce hundreds of bottles. The independent perfumer can produce tens of bottles if they desire. A good example are the perfumes of Russian Adam under his Areej Le Dore brand. He can source actual musk from the animal through a license he has. Other independent perfumers create their own tinctures, botanical hydrosols, co-distillates, or enfleurage. Each of these create magic. The botanicals sourced by Yasuyuki Shinohara from his home island of Hokkaido, Japan for his Di Ser line are what makes those perfumes unique.

The final thing which has made independent perfumery so important is it lives outside the geography of France, the US, Italy or Great Britain. For over 100 years that was where the perfume we knew came from. Independent perfumery takes place everywhere with the influences of location finding its way into the bottle. All four of the countries where modern perfume was born have their share of independent perfumers who have things to say about that history in their new perfumes. The perspective that comes from elsewhere is invaluable.

If you need the best argument for the importance of independent perfumer in 2018 follow along next week as the perfumes speak for themselves.

Mark Behnke