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

Atelier Cologne 101- Five To Get You Started

There are certain brands which I feel are “mine”. What I mean by that is once I started writing about perfume more seriously, and regularly, there were some brands that were starting out at the same time. I and those brands have grown-up together so they are “mine”. Most of those won’t be ready for the 101 treatment for a few years; Atelier Cologne is.

sylvie christophe

Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel

Atelier Cologne started in 2010 with five releases. Creative director/ co-owner Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and co-owner Christophe Cervasel have created a brand which has flourished in the last five plus years. The concept was simple to up the perfume oil concentration in a cologne architecture to create long-lasting colognes which they call cologne absolues. They have worked exclusively with two perfumers Jerome Epinette and Ralf Schwieger. As I constantly mention, that kind of consistent creative relationship can be very good for a brand. It creates a signature which a buyer can come to rely upon. There are few brands who have defined themselves better than Atelier Cologne. I think they are one of the best current examples of how to start and grow your perfume brand. With the release of Musc Imperial they have released 25 perfumes in just under six years. If you need a place to get started here are the five that should be top of the list.

When I met Mme Ganter-Cervasel for the first time she stuck a strip of Orange Sanguine by Hr. Schwieger under my nose. It was probably the moment the mix of orange and blood orange hit me that this line imprinted itself on my consciousness. If you want a citrus perfume which lasts all-day this is the one as it moves through a floral intermezzo of geranium before ending on sandalwood. All kept at a perfect pitch throughout.

It would be a year later with Vanille Insensee by Hr. Schwieger where Atelier Cologne would show even the deeper notes in perfumery could be given the cologne absolue treatment. Hr. Schwieger creates a fantastic transparent vanilla which opens with lime and coriander to jasmine and vetiver down to oak and vanilla. A strong green thread runs throughout and by the time the sweet of the vanilla shows up in the base it seems like it should always have been the basis for a cologne.

atelier rose anonyme

Rose Anonyme by M. Epinette might be the best single fragrance in the entire line. He uses one of the best rose raw materials I have experienced as the centerpiece. Ginger on top provides the intro to the rose and an earthy accord of patchouli, bezoin, and papyrus give you the sense of the plant growing in the soil. In a field as crowded as rose perfumes this one is in the very upper tiers of that category.

M. Epinette would again display another set of fantastic floral raw materials in Silver Iris. A Florentine orris and mimosa from Grasse form the crisp floral heart. A “kir royale” accord comes before getting to that. This provides the chill snap of fizzy fruity champagne. The florals provide a pillowy contrast to that. It all ends with patchouli and tonka singing a sweet lullaby.

I really love fig perfumes but there hasn’t been a good one in the last few years until earlier this year Figuier Ardent by Hr. Schwieger was released. This all starts with a green fig swathed in cardamom, anise, and pepper. Like a time-lapse photo the fig ripens on my skin into a lush rich creamy experience surrounded by orris, tonka, and cedar. This is the best fig perfume of the last five years.

A final note on this brand. I am often asked for “office-friendly” suggestions. Atelier Cologne is right at the top of my list for those recommendations. Because these are cologne constructs they don’t overwhelm in any way. The higher perfume oil concentration just makes them last all-day and then some. I think if you haven’t introduced yourself to “my” line the five above are a good place to start.

Disclosure: This review based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Jasmin Angelique- Red Hot and Green

As we approach the mid-point of 2015 if I was going to point out two trends which have stood out over the first half of the year it would be green fragrances and the use of szechuan pepper; mostly as a top note. When it comes to green it is one of the fragrance genres I like therefore having more different interpretations is a pleasant problem to have. The szechuan pepper was a note I was introduced to back at Pitti last September in a talk given by Mane.They passed around some differently extracted forms of it. Each had interesting quirks that I was looking forward to seeing how my favorite perfumers would use it. One of my favorite brands Atelier Cologne and one of my favorite perfumers Jerome Epinette provided me both; a new green perfume using Szechuan pepper called Jasmin Angelique.

sylvie christophe

Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel (Photo: Sarah Bouasse via Flair)

Jasmin Angelique is the sixth entry in the Collection Matieres for Atelier Cologne. Co-owner and creative director Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel describes this collection as “mythical essences reinvented”. I describe it as things you shouldn’t be able to make colognes from, even if they are in absolue concentration. Jasmin Angelique is as close as it can get early on to being a traditional cologne but once it goes green and floral it transforms into something full of powerful intent while still retaining a cologne architecture.

Jerome-Epinette

Jerome Epinette

M. Epinette uses a very traditional bright lemon opening which is at first made slightly green with angelica seeds. Then M. Epinette unleashes the Szechuan pepper. In the case of Jasmin Angelique it provides a piquant contrast you might normally get from baie rose. The difference with the Szechuan pepper is there is a deeper banked energy that radiates off of it. If lemon provides the sunshine the Szechuan peper is providing the molten red ball of the sun itself. These early moments are fascinating in their texture. The heart notes arrive with a green wave starting with galbanum and fig. They douse the fire of the top notes underneath a verdant vivaciousness. As the green pushes the top notes to the back ground the jasmine can then arrive. M. Epinette has to keep the jasmine tightly controlled bacause the green is meant to be ascendant and jasmine is the kind of floral that can take over. He does keep it on a short leash allowing it to take its place but not to dominate. The indolic core fits right into the galbanum and fig duet. After many hours Jasmin Angelique transitions into a base of amber, tonka, and incense. The amber is the leader of the pack with the incense and tonka providing support. The amber is as warm as the opening notes were as Jasmin Angelique finishes where it began, on a warm glow.

Jasmin Angelique has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Jasmin Angelique has to be one of the least floral perfumes I have ever tried which has Jasmine in the name. The keynotes of this perfume are the Szechuan pepper and the galbanum-fig heart chord. They are what draw me in when I am wearing Jasmin Angelique for the day. I once again tip my hat to Mme Ganter-Cervasel and M. Epinette for making a cologne out of a set of notes which you should have a difficult time doing it with. That they make it look so effortless is part of the magic of the Atelier Cologne brand.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Atelier Cologne Mandarine Glaciale & Sud Magnolia- Atelier Cologne 2.0 (Part 1)

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As Atelier Cologne celebrates the end of its fifth year with the release of Pomelo Paradis to the original collection of colognes. They open the future with a brand new collection dubbed Collection Azur. As I experienced these new cologne absolues over the last few days I was struck that it feels a bit like Atelier Cologne 2.0. Five years ago Creative Directors and owners Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel knew what they wanted to achieve by exploring the boundaries of cologne. Over the last five years they have produced a collection which has hewed to that vision. Now just like when computer software gets updated the new four fragrance Collection Azur feels like the next evolution of Atelier Cologne. It also reminded me of the day five years ago when Mme Ganter introduced me to the line for the first time. I looked forward to seeing this line succeed and they have. I am going to review all four of the new colognes over the next two days. Today I’ll start with Manadarine Glaciale and Sud Magnolia.

mandarine glaciale picture

One of the unifying themes of the Collection Azur is that of citrus as all four have it featured in their development. Manadarine Glaciale, by perfumer Jerome Epinette, is the citrusiest of them all. Mandarine Glaciale opens with the mandarin along with lemon and bergamot. It is a snappy beginning but it also lives up to the second part of the name. There is a feeling like this is frozen citrus almost encased in a chilly block of ice. That effect is produced by M. Epinette using ginger and petitgrain. Often citrus colognes feel like a gentle slap on the cheek. The early going of Mandarine Glaciale feels like it has been hidden behind an opaque material as it works to break free. After a couple of hours when it finally sheds some of the chill jasmine emerges along with it. M. Epinette uses a well-behaved jasmine which adds a floral vector without getting too floral or feral. The base slides into vetiver over amber and white musk. As with the jasmine the vetiver is kept from being too influential and the citrus stays throughout the development. Manadarine Glaciale has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

sud magnolia picture

Sud Magnolia, also by perfumer Jerome Epinette, pins a flower to its citrus lapel. Over the last six months there have been a number of magnolia perfumes which have made it in front of my nose. I am not sure why the sudden increase but Sud Magnolia is one of the better ones, of this recent group. M. Epinette goes for a lip-puckering sour citrus top combining bitter orange and pomelo. He marries them to lush blackcurrant to further add some depth. This opening is all about getting your attention and it is hard to ignore when wearing it. I really like the enhancement of the sour over the sweet during the early going. This time the citrus is swept away by the magnolia and M. Epinette has found a really striking source of magnolia to use as a focal point. It is at turns creamy and woody while maintaining its floralcy. He supports this beauty by adding in rose and saffron. Together they make a floral accord that is just made for a garden party in the spring. It all finishes upon a foundation of sandalwood and cedar wood, more of the latter than the former. That makes the finish a bit more austerely woody than warm. Sud Magnolia has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I will conclude these reviews with Cedre Atlas and Figuier Ardent tomorrow.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke