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.

shl777mortalskin

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.

CELINE_VERLEURE 

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

Colognoisseur 2015 Year-End Review Part 1- Overview

I start this as I do every year; 2015 was a great year for perfume. It is easy to get cynical with the mountain of perfume that is out there; 99% of it forgettable and derivative. What I live for is the other 1% for within that tiny slice of releases is what makes me so interested in fragrance. I set a new personal yearly record in sniffing just under 700 new fragrances in 2015. That leaves me missing out on over 900 new releases as there were 1676 new releases in 2015. Let me see if I can share with you some of my optimism about the perfume industry.

julien rasquinet

Julien Rasquinet

As some of our greatest perfumers like Jean-Claude Ellena and Jacques Polge prepare to retire you want to see the next generation of perfumers. 2015 displayed a number of strong releases from a quartet of young perfumers Cristiano Canali composed Rubini Fundamental and Masque Milano Romanza. Luca Maffei did two of the Jul et Mad Les Whites; Nea and Garuda. Cecile Zarokian did two for Parfums MDCI Cio Cio San and Les Indes Galantes. Julien Rasquinet did Histoires de Parfums Fidelis and Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre.

frida

In the American independent perfume community there was also continued great work from the likes of Josh Lobb at slumberhouse with Kiste. Shelley Waddington had her own En Voyage Frida and Zoologist Hummingbird. Bruno Fazzolari’s homage to The Shining, Room 237, was fantastic.

There was also a coterie of brand new perfume brands which were memorable for me this year. Holladay Saltz’s Apoteker Tepe, Atelier des Ors, Orlov Paris, Vilhelm, Unum, and Dasein. None of them made me smile more that Stephen Dirkes’ Penny Dreadful as perfume multi-media releases for Euphorium Brooklyn. This is fragrance as fun and I was happy to go along for the ride.

nomenclature orbital

I noticed there was a greater embrace of the synthetic in perfume. Starting with Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection all the way through to the four inaugural releases for Nomenclature. These brands were unafraid to show the versatility a synthetic can display.

alaia-paris

The mainstream offerings at the mall also had a strong year and in a year where Miu Miu, Alaia, and Marc Jacobs Decadence all stood out for offering something different in the mall that is a good trend.. It also saw a strong year for a niche brand that now has a strong department store presence, Jo Malone; Mimosa & Cardamom and Orris & Sandalwood are among the best in that very extensive line.

For every brand on the upswing there were a few who had less memorable years. 2015 was entirely forgettable for Comme des Garcons, Serge Lutens and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. The latter will particularly set off alarms because it was just a year ago that Estee Lauder bought Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle and Le Labo. It is highly unlikely anyone at Estee Lauder had anything to do with Cologne Indelible. Conversely they can’t take credit for one of my favorites this year Le Labo The Noir 29. For me it will be what we see in 2016 that will give a true indication on how these brands will change.

Golden-Pears-2014-001

I end on a personal note. A year ago I mentioned my enthusiasm for The Art & Olfaction Awards overseen by Saskia Wilson-Brown of The Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles. This year I have gone from cheering on the sidelines to being one of the Finalist Judges. Of everything that has happened in 2015 this is my favorite development. 2015 will not truly end until I choose from a set of unlabeled vials to pick the best of 2015.

Tomorrow I will name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.

The next day will be my Top 25 New Perfumes of 2015.

Mark Behnke

Sniffapalooza Fall Ball 2015 Wrap-Up- Its My Party and I’ll Sniff If I Want To

1

This year Sniffapalooza Fall Ball coincided with my birthday weekend; which made the whole weekend one long celebration for me. Fall Ball 2015 began with a pre-event on Friday night at Brooklyn boutique Twisted Lily. 60 people made it out to enjoy the atmosphere and to get the party started early. I had written about the new Blocki perfumes just before the event and was interested to see the reaction of those in attendance. Everyone headed home so they could be up bright and early on Saturday morning.

Norell presentation

Norell New York Presentation at BG

Saturday morning was the official start at the café downstairs at Bergdorf-Goodman. We were treated to short presentations on over fifteen brands. One of the nice coincidences was the Tom Ford presentation announced the return of previously discontinued Amber Absolute back in the Private Blend collection. The fun was Christophe Laudamiel the perfumer behind Amber Absolute was also in the room. It was gratifying to see him smile when he got one of the strips being passed around. The standouts for me were the relaunch of Norell which was one of the original American designer perfumes. Called Norell New York it is a different fragrance but it retains much of what made the original a trendsetter. Another brand making a triumphant return is Shalini. This is one of perfumer Maurice Roucel’s best perfumes; I am happy to see it back in its gorgeous Lalique flacon emulating a butterfly wing. The final presentation is the one which excited me most. The new French brand Ex Nihilo has created a small shop in Bergdorf-Goodman where their eight perfumes can be purchased in the US for the first time. The unique aspect of the brand is in conjunction with the perfumer each perfume can have one of three additional notes added in the boutique to personalize every bottle. The shop was a week away from opening but it is going to be one of the newest stars in the Bergdorf-Goodman fragrance universe.

Christophe decanting Chypre de Coty

Christophe Laudamiel decanting from a 1921 bottle of Chypre de Coty

Lunch was full of camaraderie as everyone at each table compared purchases while waiting for the program to start. Paula and Teresa of Beautyhabit gave us a preview of the pop-up we would end the night at. Lyn Leigh and Mary Ellen Lapsansky told us about The Perfumed Plume awards for fragrance writing. Sarah Horowitz-Thran presented her Biography Scents of Self perfume set which she is selling on QVC. It is a complete set of four perfumes which can be worn individually or layered. The absolute highlight of Saturday was Christophe Laudamiel who first introduced us to the new educational kit on fragrance called “A Sense of Scents”. This is a fantastic innovation and I will have more on this in a full article. After that he said because it was my birthday he had a surprise. It was a 1921 bottle of Chypre de Coty as perfectly preserved as a bottle of that age could be. Generously coated mouillettes were handed out. You could hear the collected gasp of pleasure of everyone in the room when he announced what the bottle was. This is exactly what makes Sniffapalooza what it is as there are very few events where one can smell the original chypre perfume.

After a stop at the beautiful new Rockefeller Center Penhaligon’s boutique we all headed downtown to the Beautyhabit pop-up shop at Black Label Wine Merchants. Paula and Teresa curated a collection to thrill with new releases from Olfactive Studio, Raw Spirit, and Lubin on display. They are also the first seller of the new ALTAIA brand I am aware of. It was a delightful way to end Day 1.

Day 2 began at Birchbox with Karthik from Harvey Prince presenting the line. After that we were free to explore the downtown Fragrance District as we strolled between Atelier Cologne, Le Labo, Rituals, and Red Flower. Le Labo treated us to a sneak preview of their next new fragrance The Noir 29.

Beckie and Katy at lunch

Katy Knuth and Beckie Sheloskie present Rebel Intuitive

Lunch had presentations from Jennifer McKay Newton who introduced us to her Define Me Fragrance line. The team of Beckie Sheloskie and Katy Knuth told us all about their indie line Rebel Intuitive. Will Yin introduced us to Scent Trunk the monthly subscription service which introduces each member to three new fragrances a month based on their profile.

One more stop for this party and that was the newest addition to the Fragrance District the Byredo store. It is mostly displaying the leather goods from the brand. For this crowd we clustered around the two counters with the fragrance collection. We finished the day sipping champagne and sniffing Byredo perfumes.

As always my thanks to Karen Dubin and Karen Adams for their considerable effort in organizing this event. It was the perfect way to spend my birthday.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Pitti Fragranze 2015 Final Wrap-Up Part 2- The Top 10 New Fragrances I Tried

I spent three days at Pitti Fragranze 2015 trying 96 new perfumes. It turns out it is very difficult to reduce that list down to ten. A year ago it felt like there were many brands vying for the same bit of olfactory space. This year as I look over the list below I am really pleased to see no obvious thread of similarity running through it. Here are the typical caveats for this list. These are all initial impressions obtained from a small patch of skin during three days where there is nothing but perfume in the air. Also these are the Top 10 which are new to me. Releases like Arquiste Nanban would have made the list but I had it before coming to Florence. I also did not mention Pitti-only perfumes like Pierre Guillaume’s Lumiere Fauve which would have also been on this list. Here is the list in alphabetical order:

ALTAIA Yu Son– Married creative directors and owners of Eau D’Italie Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena did some ancestral research and found their great great great grandfathers intersected in Argentina. It has produced an inaugural edition of three new fragrances all by perfumer Daphne Bugey. Yu Son is the orange-centric fragrance that cuts right to the heart of their story.

Essenzialmente Laura Lavanda- Perfumer Laura Tonatto has debuted a new line of fragrance with 39(!) new entries. It is overwhelming but buried within all of that new perfume is a trio of lavender fragrances which deserve to rise above the clutter. The best of them is the simplest as Sig.ra Tonatto combines five sources of lavender to create a supernatural lavender accord.

Ineke Idyllwild– Independent perfumer Ineke Ruhland had been focused on her Floral Curiosities collection over the past couple of years and her alphabet series had fallen behind. Ms. Ruhland is about to rectify that oversight with not only I but J coming out in short order. It was Idyllwild which completely mesmerized me. Ms. Ruhland took me through the building blocks which make up this gorgeous smoky rose. It left me more impressed than ever at her ability to construct a perfume.

mcg elephant and roses

Maria Candida Gentile Elephant & Roses– Sig.ra Gentile was daydreaming at her home and she imagined an elephant walking through a field of roses crushing them as it passed. Her translation into a fragrance was to merge the animalic odor of the elephant with the floralcy of the rose. She chose a Turkish rose so that the spicy components would pick up the animalic accord it was paired with. Now when wearing it I see the pachyderm amongst the petals.

Masque Milano Romanza– Creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi have reached the act of their olfactory opera where the love story is told. Nose Cristiano Canali and the creative team decided on narcissus as the smell of passionate love. Romanza is a narcotic love poem written in bold floral strokes. I broke my first vial and my bedroom was filled with this narcissus swaddling me in its addictive embrace. I never slept so well.

Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre– This was hands down the most buzzed about perfume at this year’s fair. Knowing nods were traded by those of us who had tried it. Ms. Goodsir and her creative partner Renaud Coutadier working with perfumer Julien Rasquinet created a green iris which never turns powdery on my skin. I already cannot get it out of my head and have been wearing it since my return. It is everything about perfume that I love; creativity, a twist on the familiar, and something eminently wearable.

Nomenclature Efflor_esce– I admit any perfume based on synthetic molecules and packaged in stylized Erlenmyer flasks is always going to have my attention. Creative directors Karl Bradl and Carlos Quintero working with perfumer Frank Voelkl take the synthetic Paradisone, a modern successor to Hedione, and put it at the center of Efflor_esce. Surrounding it are florals osmanthus, tuberose, and neroli paired with bigarade and bergamot. Paradisone is the unquestioned star of the show but the complementary notes chosen by the creative team make it sparkle and shine.

olfactive studio selfie

Olfactive Studio Selfie– Creative director Celine Verleure usually uses a photograph as her brief. For Selfie you are faced with a mirrored surface to see your reflection within. To capture the narcissistic tendency to take one’s picture all the time Mme Verleure turned to perfumer Thomas Fontaine. Together the perfume they created has a fantastically realized heart of cinnamon, balsam, lily and an accord of maple syrup. I am not sure I get the relationship to egotism but I do know I definitely want to see my reflection in a bottle.

Olivier Durbano Chrysolithe- I mentioned this last year that M. Durbano really has grown as a perfumer. Chrysolithe confirms that assessment. M. Durbano returns to naming his fragrances after crystals. There were a number of perfumes I tried this year which contained sage. M. Durbano, by combining it with cumin on top; cedar and vetiver in the base, forms a sage which shows off all of its many attributes spectacularly.

Tauerville Rose FlashAndy Tauer working on his second line of perfumes has created a set of three flash fragrances that are all extremely good. I purposely held off trying these because I knew I could experience them for the first time with Hr. Tauer at Pitti. We saved Rose Flash for last and it just slayed me. If you like Une Rose Chypree this is Hr. Tauer showing you a different face of rose. It carries a definitive signature of the rose bush with the green of the leaves matched with the woodiness of the stems. Over it all a spicy lush rose prevails. There is nothing not to enjoy here if you like rose perfumes. Just make sure you get some before it is gone.  

That’s it for my wrap-up of Pitti Fragranze 2015. Full reviews of all of these will be forthcoming over the next few weeks plus many others which just missed making the Top 10. Thanks for following the coverage of Pitti Fragranze 2015 on Colognoisseur.

Mark Behnke