Colognoisseur is Going to Cosmoprof North America 2016

I am very excited to reveal that I have been invited to attend one of the largest Business-to-Business beauty conventions in the world, Cosmoprof North America 2016. Taking place from July 24-26, 2016 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas; 30,000 members of the beauty industry will convene.

Cosmoprof covers every conceivable area of the beauty industry. Last year they started a specific section for perfume. Curated by Karen Dubin and Karen Adams of Sniffapalooza the Discover Scent section is an island of fragrance among everything else going on.

I am going to be covering the participants in the Discover Scent area over the three days of the show posting daily wrap-ups as I usually do when attending these kind of expositions.

Some of the brands I’ll be interacting with are:

Demeter Fragrance Library

Fath Essentials

Amerikas, Inc.

House of Matriarch

DefineMe

Scent Invent Technologies

Paglieri 1876

xSense

Besame Cosmetics

I FEEL GREAT

Life Therapy

I am looking forward to seeing what the new brands have to offer and to see what is new for the brands I know of.

Six weeks from now I’ll be channeling my inner Elvis, humming Viva Las Vegas, and bringing you the sights and sounds of Discover Scent at Cosmoprof North America 2016.

Mark Behnke

Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2016 Wrap-Up- Profumo Comes to the Perfumed Apple

I attended my first Sniffapalooza in October of 2010. For this edition Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2016, my twelfth, it was the most unique of them all. The reason was in addition to the usual strong lineup of American perfume brands; Europe sent some of their best too. It made the entire weekend feel like it was a summit of perfumery.

spring fling 2016 mark eric stamatis

Mark and Team Twisted Lily (Photo: Brooklyn Fragrance Lover)

In what is starting to become a tradition Twisted Lily owners Stamatis Birsimijoglou and Eric Weiser invited the early arrivers to a party on Friday night. Inside the best smelling storefront in Brooklyn we mingled and enjoyed wine and camaraderie. Amongst hugs there was sniffing as attendees discovered the latest additions since last fall. We all headed home prepared for the next two days.

Saturday morning began on the Beauty Floor at Bergdorf-Goodman. The hot new addition to the store was The Fragrance Kitchen. Just the week before there was an SRO party to celebrate its arrival. It is an extensive line but it seems like Bergdorf’s managed to convince them to provide one of the best exclusively to them called A Rose With a View. It is a very NYC modern rose. The brand has been around since 2012 but sold exclusively in Kuwait. Now Sheikh Majed El-Sabah is looking to expand to the US and Europe.

I also got the chance to try the new Ex Nihilo Sweet Morphine and Christian Dior La Colle Noire. I liked both quite a bit. Next it was off to lunch at Brasserie 8 ½.

Stefania Squeglia sniffa

Stefania Squeglia presenting a Spring Fling 2016

The presentations began with the owners of Masque Milano Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi representing Associazione Caterina. That group is about the heritage and future of Italian perfumery. Over the next hour they took us on a journey from the Roman origins of perfume to the present day. Which turned out to be a perfect segue as Stefania Squeglia of Mendittorosa was one of the later presenters and she represents the current exciting state of Italian perfumery quite well.

Holding up the American end of things Barbara Herman introduced her new perfume brand Eris. Ms. Herman has moved from writing about perfume in her blog Yesterday’s Perfume and her book Scent and Subversion to collaborating with perfumer Antoine Lie. My first impression was they managed to find that tricky balance of vintage aesthetic with a contemporary feel.

A drizzly Sunday morning found us in the Annick Goutal store downtown. Annick Goutal is one of those early pioneer brands in the niche space and it is nice to see it continuing to thrive as the market has diversified around it. It was nice to be reminded of that.

Mary and Cecile of Puredistance

Mary Gooding (l.) and perfumer Cecile Zarokian presenting Puredistance Sheiduna

After some more wandering around downtown we arrived at lunch where I was the MC. I thought this year’s group was the strongest of all the years I have been doing this part of the weekend. It started with Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi finally representing their own brand Masque Milano. Both of the newest releases Romanza and L’Attesa were revealed. Mary Orlin of Wine Fashionista gave a fabulous presentation tying together the aromas of the wine we were drinking to perfume. A real treat was the European brand Puredistance was presented by Mary Gooding accompanied by perfumer Cecile Zarokian where they told us all about this fall’s new release Sheiduna. The first Oriental for the brand. I had it on my forearm for the ride home and kept returning to it for the rest of the day. Irina Adam presented her Art & Olfaction Finalist Phoenix Botanicals Peach Tree Garden. Paula Pulvino is translating the perfume recipes of her Italian grandmother into her new brand Villa of the Mysteries. The final presenter was mad impresario Stephen Dirkes of Euphorium Brooklyn who took us inside his creative process for Cilice.

It seemed appropriate to finish with a Brooklyn-based brand so we sort of ended where we started.

As always it was another fun, and exhausting weekend, in NYC. Thanks to Karen Adams and Karen Dubin for putting it all together.

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

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

Colognoisseur 2016 Hopes and Wishes

As we reach the last day of 2015 it is time to look forward to 2016. Here are some things I am anticipating and/or hoping for.

christine nagel

Christine Nagel

The first fragrance from Christine Nagel for Hermes. This is a holdover from last year. I expected this to happen in 2015 but I will be very surprised if I am typing this for the third time at the end of next year. I firmly believe she is the right successor to Jean-Claude Ellena. I just want to see what she does first.

I want another great Guerlain. Over the last two years Guerlain has fallen into that pitfall of complacency. They have made solid perfume which has been so safe. It has been three years since the release of Rose Nacree du Desert, which was the last one to slay me. Surely when you are releasing over a dozen new releases per year there is a spot for something less safe and more different.

I still want that big crossover success for an independent perfumer. This has been a hope for as long as I’ve been blogging. It hasn’t quite come true yet. Although the move of Christi Meshell of House of Matriarch and Raymond Matts taking their perfumes into Nordstrom is one element that will be needed to make this come true.

perfumed-plume

I want the inaugural edition of The Perfumed Plume to be a big success. For too long as a US writer I’ve been envious of my European colleagues who have yearly awards for their writing. Lyn Leigh and Mary Ellen Lapsansky have established The Perfumed Plume to be the American version. I think there is a lot of great writing happening in the fragrant blogosphere and I want to see it recognized appropriately.

I wish for new brands to start with no more than three to five debut releases. 2015 saw more new brands coming to the market with ten or more entries. This kind of business plan is unsustainable because the little boutiques which are the life blood for a new niche brand can’t just give over shelf space for ten new perfumes with no audience. If you have ten great ideas please pick your three best and build an audience; for the other seven.

vero pensive

Vero Kern

I am hoping for a new Vero Kern release. After taking 2015 off I suspect that 2016 will bring us the follow-up to Rozy. Please don’t make me wait too long Vero.

I hope for the continued success of initiatives like Tauerville. Andy Tauer’s Tauerville line is a great introduction to independent perfumery at an attractive price point paired with perfumes which display that indie ethos. I would like to see some others make an effort to try something similar.

I ended last year’s column with this:

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.

Sometimes wishes do come true.

On this New Year’s Eve I convey to all the readers of Colognoisseur the Happiest of New Year’s wishes. May all of them come true in 2016.

Mark Behnke

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

2

Every year I make up this list I surprise myself at how much I have tried over the year and how little it represents of the total new perfumes released. This year I sniffed 686 new releases out of 1676 total. I think I am in a great position to try as much as I do and I still missed trying over half of 2015’s new fragrances. It is always a difficult job to winnow my favorites down to a top 25 because there are usually more than that which I will personally own. Here are the bottles which will eventually be gracing my perfume cabinet.

naomi-goodsir

Naomi Goodsir

Top 5 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)

5. Alaia Paris Almost everything I try comes with a pre-conceived notion of what I think it will smell like. When it came to Alaia I had been told it was supposed to smell like “the smell of hot water falling on cold chalk”. While I still don’t get the chalk the hot and cold contrast is readily apparent to me. Perfumer Marie Salamagne created an olfactory silhouette of steamy ozonic accords which eventually end up on a mixture of precisely balanced white musks to offer the cold as well as the feral. Best designer fragrance of 2015.

4. Memo African Leather– Memo has been one of my favorite brands of the last few years. African Leather is the best of what is becoming a very strong overall collection within Memo, Cuirs Nomades. African Leather is the smell of the savannah, animalic and alive. It is also the culmination of the long partnership between creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet. They have evolved into a formidable fragrance team who I only suspect have even better days ahead.

3. Aftelier BergamossMandy Aftel had a stellar year with two outstanding releases. Vanilla Smoke could easily have slid into this spot except that Bergamoss got here first and it has been an object of fragrant fascination for me over the last half of the year. A solid perfume, Bergamoss carries with it a unique intimacy as applying it in such a tactile way draws you in. What you encounter is as good a modern chypre as I have smelled. The use of flouve absolute provides an ever-shifting frame of reference between the bergamot and the moss. An Eau de Parfum version was released at the end of the year as a limited edition and it is also extremely good but it is the solid version which is the one I adore.

2. Aedes de Venustas Palissandre D’Or– The creative team of Karl Bradl, Robert Gerstner, and Francois Duquesne collaborated with perfumer Alberto Morillas to create a perfume of colored bands. Spices paint a burnt siena, cinnamon and sandalwood provide a lacquered red leading to a base of molten gold as three different cedars come together. It seems obvious that M. Morillas is delighted to be able to use these ingredients when working on a niche release. Palissandre D’Or is a joyous collaboration of passion.

1. Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre For more detail read Part 2. For this piece the most unique iris fragrance in four years.

Here are the rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order

Atelier Cologne Figuier Ardente– Atelier Cologne had a fantastic year with Oud Saphir, Jasmine Angelique, and Musc Imperial all among the best of the line. It was Figuier Ardente which has become my favorite of one of my favorite lines. Creative director Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel works with longtime partner in Cologne Absolue, Ralf Schwieger. What they have done is a time-lapse ripening of a fig from green to luscious decadence. Best fig perfume of the last five years.

Bruno Fazzolari SeyrigBruno Fazzolari was another perfumer with two outstanding releases. Room 237 is the Blair Witch Project in a bottle. Seyrig was an homage to the days of big aldehydes with lilac added in. Fabulous Retro Nouveau release.

DSH Perfumes The Voices of TreesDawn Spencer Hurwitz released an impressive breadth of releases from the abstract to the Retro Nouveau, all of them are noteworthy. The Voices of Trees is the best of them. Following up on last year’s Seve de Pin; The Voices of Trees adds in maple and sycamore to the pinon resin infused pine oil which made Seve de Pin so memorable. The Voices of Trees is better in every way. After much thought I think this is the best perfume Ms. Hurwitz has ever made. It is flawless.

frida

En Voyage Perfumes Frida– Perfumer Shelley Waddington released a strong slate in 2015, too. Frida is my favorite because within the tuberose there is a fierce heartbeat of passion. Ms. Waddington gets this completely right.

Grandiflora Madigascan Jasmine– Perfumer Michel Roudnitska working with creative director Saskia Havekes has created one of the most interesting jasmine soliflores I own. By using specific notes to explore every facet of a beautifully chosen Madigascan Jasmine I come away with a greater love for this floral than ever before.

Equipage_Geranium

Hermes Equipage Geranium– This third re-examination of a legacy Hermes perfume by Jean-Claude Ellena is the best. Evolving the tack room of Equipage into the leather chair in the library with Equipage Geranium. He has created a relevant version for the current day.

Hiram Green Voyage– Indie perfumer Hiram Green has made the best perfume of his career. Voyage is an exotic spicy leather which morphs into a vanilla gourmand. One of the most intricately constructed perfumes on this list.

John Varvatos Dark Rebel– The John Varvatos line might be the best mass-market men’s fragrance line out there. One reason for that is perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who has overseen all of them. Dark Rebel’s boozy black leather jacket is the best of them all.

Le Labo The Noir 29– Worried that Estee Lauder was going to screw up Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi’s baby? The Noir 29 by perfumer Frank Voelkl feels like the spiritual evolution of 2011’s Santal 33. Except I like it even more.

micallef akowa

M. Micallef AkowaGeoffrey Nejman and Jean-Claude Astier create a perfume which is so overstuffed with ideas it is hard to figure out where to focus first. The most kaleidoscopic perfume of 2015 for its ever shifting nature.

Masque Milano Romanza– Creative Directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi put their faith in young gun Cristiano Canali. What they received was a lush passionate narcissus perfume which touches my soul every time I wear it.

Miu Miu– Miu Miu led the charge of the mainstream perfumes over the last quarter of 2015. Prior to that it was looking bleak. Perfumer Daniela Andrier made a perfume which seemed classic and contemporary at the same time.

Neela Vermeire Creations PicholaNeela Vermeire working with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has made one of the most breathtakingly beautiful tuberose perfumes I own. Mainly because it is a tightly green tuberose which explodes into full flower with a bang. I described it like a Bollywood dance number breaking out in a garden. I don’t have a better way to explain it now.

Nishane Istanbul Afrika Olifant– Creative directors Mert Guzel and Murat Katran debuted their Nishane Istanbul line this year. Afrika Oliphant is the best of the brand as it combines real animalic raw materials with the synthetic musks meant to replace that material. Perfumer Jorge Lee makes something which feels like a cyborg version of the feral.

olfactive panorama

Olfactive Studio PanoramaCeline Verleure working with perfumer Clement Gavarry would make a perfume of fierce verdancy. With nothing more eye-catching than the wasabi accord which greets you upon spritzing this on. The most singular artistic statement Olfactive Studio has ever made.

Raymond Matts PashayRaymond Matts’ Aura de Parfum was a collection I greatly admired. I was first attracted to Kaiwe but over the year Pashay has become my favorite. Perfumer Christophe Laudamiel creates a magnetic salty skin accord using Kalamata olive as the linchpin. Pashay is a triumph of composition.

Rubini Fundamental– Fundamental was a true team effort of Andrea Rubini, perfumer Cristiano Canali, historian Ermano Picco, and packaging sorceress Francesca Gotti. They have made one of the strongest debut fragrances of the last few years. This is why I love perfume.

Slumberhouse KisteJosh Lobb’s most approachable creation. A lazy Savannah summer evening with a pitcher of sweet tea sweating on the table. He captured the decaying fecundity of the thickly growing plants along with a bespoke tobacco accord. I get lost within its lunatic embrace every time.

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Stephane Humbert Lucas Mortal Skin– Decay is a theme in this magnificent perfume by Stephane Humbert Lucas. From its inky incense opening to a battle of entropy in the base between an accord of ambergris and labdanum versus civet and musk. It is a battle where the winner changes in a kinetic way over hours. This snake has me in its coils.

Strangelove NYC meltmyheart– The second release from Strangelove NYC. Creative director Helena Christensen worked with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to make a chocolate, oud and orris perfume with an unusual fragility for something made up of those notes. This has been one of my most worn perfumes of the last few months.

The Final Cuts: The 18 Which Just Missed the Top 25: Amouage Opus IX, Arquiste Nanban, Atelier des Ors Lune Feline, Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Bleu, Byredo Rose of No Man’s Land, Cartier Oud Radieux, Chanel Misia, Charenton Macerations Asphalt Rainbow, Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom, Jul et Mad Nea, Jul et Mad Garuda, Maria Candida Gentile Elephant and Roses, Olivier Durbano Chrysolithe, Orlov Star of the Season, Pierre Guillaume Mojito Chypre, Roja Parfums A Goodnight Kiss, Unum LAVS, and Vilhelm Black Citrus.

That is it for 2015. I will rest up for a couple days and begin 2016 hoping it is as good as 2015 was.

Part 1 was my general overview of 2015.

Part 2 was my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2015 Year-End Review Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, & Brand of the Year

In a year when I smelled almost 700 new perfumes it is easy to focus on some of the problems which affect the perfume industry. What is nice about this time of year is it allows me to focus on what is outstanding within perfumery. These next four winners are what keep me coming back for more.

Iris Cendre bottle

Perfume of the Year: Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre– There is one thing about finding a great perfume for the first time at one of the big expos; it stands out head and shoulders above all that surround it. When I arrived at this fall’s Pitti Fragranze in Florence my very first stop was to see Australian born milliner Naomi Goodsir and her partner in perfume Renaud Coutaudier. I look forward to connecting with this brand because these two have an uncompromising attention to detail in each of their releases. In three years they have only released four perfumes. Every single one of them is among the best for their particular year. I knew there was going to be a transcendent entry sooner than later. On that September day in Florence Iris Cendre turned out to be that fragrance.

For Iris Cendre Mme Goodsir and M. Coutaudier returned to the perfumer they worked with on their first two releases, Julien Rasquinet. Together they created a shimmering green iris which had a sly callback to their earlier collaboration Bois D’Ascese in the base. Iris Cendre is a success on every level I can name. Choosing a Perfume of the Year has never been easier.

christophe laudamiel

Perfumer of the Year: Christophe Laudamiel– This category was the toughest it has ever been for me. There was so much laudable work by many perfumers this year I ended up looking for intangibles to elevate my eventual choice, Christophe Laudamiel. The perfume reasons were the three 2015 releases he composed; Raymond Matts Pashay, Raymond Matts Tulile, and Strangelove NYC meltmyheart. I mentioned in my overview yesterday that there were more unabashedly synthetic perfumes released this year. In the past I have used M. Laudamiel’s work for brands like Humiecki & Graef or Nest as what can be accomplished with a primarily synthetic palette. The three perfumes he worked on for 2015 are even better examples especially the Raymond Matts Pashay. Strangelove NYC meltmyheart shows how he can take a perfectly executed central accord of chocolate, oud, and orris accompanied by a set of synthetics which impart a transparency to create something supernatural.

The intangible that lifted him over the others listed below is his tireless work for The Academy of Perfumery & Aromatics. In that capacity he developed a fantastic children’s introductory set to fragrance. By using different ingredients and tying them to their geographic location and their smells it is an ingenious way of introducing the concept of scent, in an educational way, to the next generation.

A great year of perfume combined with an important ambassadorial role makes Christophe Laudamiel my Perfumer of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Mandy Aftel, Cristiano Canali, Jean-Claude Ellena, Bruno Fazzolari, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Pierre Negrin, and Geza Schoen.

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Creative Director of the Year: Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio– Of the many things I say over and over it is how disappointed I am when a brand plays it safe. While I press for a brand to take risks their bottom line is at stake to please my desire. Any Creative Director who takes too many risks will probably not succeed. My choice for Creative Director of the Year is Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio who fearlessly released two very different perfumes in 2015, Panorama and Selfie.

Mme Verleure has always been interested in pushing the envelope as a Creative Director and that started with her work on the Kenzo Jungle collection from 1996-1998 which were not hewing to current trends at that time. When she started Olfactive Studio in 2011 she still made memorable riffs on recognizable templates but the early releases were about building an audience. In 2015 she challenged that audience with the fierce greenness of Panorama including a wasabi accord. Followed up by Selfie which took a fractured top accord of contrasting notes and coalesced it around a maple syrup heart. It is a fascinating bit of olfactory architecture I enjoy every time I wear it. These are perfumes which invite scrutiny and that is something I can only say about the very best releases in a year.

For her sense of adventure, I name Celine Verleure my Creative Director of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Karl Bradl (Aedes de Venustas and Nomenclature), Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel (Atelier Cologne), Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard (Jul et Mad), Christopher Chong (Amouage), and Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena (Eau D’Italie, ALTAIA).

sylvie christophe

Brand of the Year: Atelier Cologne– Atelier Cologne has been on an ever expanding trajectory since their founding in 2010. This year represented their most ambitious to date as they released eight new fragrances and an extrait version of one of the bestsellers. Owners and Creative Directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel have always impressed me with their clear vision for their brand. By releasing a four fragrance Collection Azur at the beginning of the year meant to be an introduction to the world of Cologne Absolue which was released to various Sephora for that reason. It was followed by four releases spread out through the year that continued the evolution of this style of perfume. Saphir Oud, Pomelo Paradis, Jasmine Angelique, and Musc Imperial displayed the versatility that can be elicited from this concept.

Atelier Cologne is also the genial ambassador to niche for many who don’t live in large cities. I have lost count how many times I have told those who live in these areas to go to their local Sephora and try the Atelier Cologne that are there. I almost invariably get a return e-mail relating to me how they bought one after smelling the difference. I always talk about wanting niche brands to reach out to consumers beyond the big cities. Atelier Cologne has done this with great success.

For those reasons Atelier Cologne is my Brand of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Aftelier Perfumes, DSH Perfumes, Hermes, Jo Malone, and Olfactive Studio.

Part 1 was my broad overview of the year.

Part 3 tomorrow I will reveal my top 25 new perfumes of 2015.

Mark Behnke