The 2017 Midterm Review

We’ve reached the midway point of 2017 which causes me to pause and take stock of what the year has been like in fragrance so far. In very general terms I think it has been the best year at this point since I started Colognoisseur in 2014. Here are some more specific thoughts.

Many of the leaders of artistic perfumery have stepped up in 2017. Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle Superstitious is an example as perfumer Dominique Ropion working with the other two names on the bottle created a hazy memory of vintage perfume. Christine Nagel composed Hermes Eau des Meveilles Bleue a brilliant interpretation of the aquatic genre. Clara Molloy and Alienor Massenet celebrated ten years of working together with Eau de Memo; it turns into a celebration of what’s right in this sector.

The independent perfumers have continued to thrive. In the independent sector, very individual statements have found an audience. Bruno Fazzolari Feu Secret, Vero Profumo Naja, Imaginary Authors Saint Julep, and Tauer L’Eau. Plus, I have another four I could have added but I haven’t reviewed them yet. My enthusiasm when I do will give them away. There is a bounty of creativity thriving on the outskirts of town.

Standing out on their own. Two perfumers I admire struck out on their own establishing their own brands. Michel Almairac created Parle Moi de Parfum. Jean-Michel Duriez has put his name on the label and opened a boutique in Paris. Both show each perfumer allowing their creativity unfettered freedom to some great results.

-Getting better and better. I look to see if young brands can continue the momentum they begin with. The two Vilhelm Parfumerie releases; Do Not Disturb and Harlem Bloom, have shown this brand is creating a deeply satisfying collection. Masque Milano is also doing that. Their latest release Times Square shows creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are unafraid to take risks. In the case of Times Square, it succeeds. Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes keeps trusting his instincts while working with some of the best indie perfumers. He and Shelley Waddington got 2017 off to a flying start with Civet.

-Mass-market has been good but not great. I have found much to like at the mall in the first half of this year. Much more than last year. My problem is I think I’m going to have to remind myself about these perfumes a year from now. I think they are trying to take tiny steps towards something new. It might even be the right choice for this sector of fragrance buyer, the exception is Cartier Baiser Fou. Mathilde Laurent’s evocation of fruit flavored lip gloss; that I’m going to remember.

The Teacher’s Pets are Rodrigo and Luca. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has always been one of my favorite perfumers. For 2017 he has returned to his roots in Mexico where he produced two collections of exceptional perfume. For Arquiste Esencia De El Palacio in conjunction with Carlos Huber they created a luxurious look at the country of their birth. Sr. Flores-Roux then collaborated with Veronica Alejandra Pena on a new line based in Mexico City; Xinu. These were perfumes which allowed him to indulge an indie sensibility. It all came together in Monstera a crunchy green gem of a fragrance. That leaves out the three Black Collection perfumes he did for Carner Barcelona; and those should not be left out.

Luca Maffei is one of the many reasons for the Renaissance of Italian Perfumery. In 2017, it seems like he is trying to prove it all on his own. He has been behind eleven releases by seven different brands. Taken together they show his exceptional versatility. The one which really shows this off is the work he did for Fath’s Essentials. Working with creative director Rania Naim he took all his Italian inspiration and transformed it into a characteristic French aesthetic. Nowhere is this more evident than in Lilas Exquis.

I am glad I still have six months’ time to find some daylight between these two for my Perfumer of the Year. Right now I’d have to declare it a tie.

My overall grade for Perfume 2017 at the midterm is a solid B+ there is much more to be admired than to make me slap my forehead. I am looking forward to the rest of the term to finalize this grade, hopefully upward.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bruno Fazzolari Feu Secret- Orris Crucible

When I was in college I had to broaden my knowledge of chemistry to obtain my degree. In the analytical chemistry lab course I came across a piece of equipment called a crucible. It was a porcelain container in which I could place a material followed by heating it up to extreme temperatures safely. Within that container, the contents would be transformed by the heat without losing their inherent nature. What resulted wasn’t scorched ashes but altered perspective. Independent perfumer Bruno Fazzolari has achieved an olfactory version of this with his latest, Feu Secret.

Bruno Fazzolari

Iris is one of the cornerstones of perfumery. It has been there from the beginning. It is also indelibly ingrained in the everyday because of its use in lipstick and face powder. To those of a specific age iris means Coty lipstick. If you were to ask people to use an adjective to describe iris I would venture “powdery” would be the winner. Because of that nature iris is sometimes seen as less varied. I would have been one of those who shared that opinion prior to discovering niche perfume. Over my time down the perfume rabbit hole I have learned just what a multivariant ingredient iris can be to a perfume. One reason this isn’t more widely known is the richest most faceted from of iris is also one of the most expensive ingredients to obtain and use.

Orris Butter from Mr. Fazzolari's blog

That ingredient is orris butter or orris concrete. It is obtained by harvesting the root of the iris, not the bloom. Drying it for three to five years then extracting and distilling that material. I was given a small grape sized globe of orris butter a few years ago. It is a more fascinating ingredient than ambergris to spend time with. It seems Mr. Fazzolari also shares this fascination. In a blog post on his website he dives even deeper into orris butter than I just did.

As I wore Feu Secret, which translates to Secret Fire, I was struck about how Mr. Fazzolari was firing metaphorical jets of warmth at the orris butter at the heart of Feu Secret making me think of it as a crucible to allow all that is there to be exposed.

Orris butter has a bit of an ice princess at its frontiers. Early in Feu Secret Mr. Fazzolari chooses to show that off a bit with eucalyptus using its mentholated quality to lift that up into the embrace of green hemlock. The chill is thrown off by the warmth of pink pepper and turmeric. It is the turmeric that is the guide to a rooty sweaty quality I don’t think I’ve ever noticed to this degree when wearing other orris-centric perfumes. It isn’t body odor sweat but that clean honest sweat of digging in a flower bed. A bit musky in many ways. The final amount of heat comes as the orris butter is subsumed in birch tar and cedar. This is where the orris butter is truly transformed into something special. The cedar sets up the framework for the birch tar to connect to the orris upon. There is not a hint of powder to be found here. This is where the earthiness of orris butter is brought to the foreground. It carries a bit of yeastiness which pushes back against the pungency of the birch tar. The muskiness also rises to greater prominence before, after all of the heat recedes, leaving the beautiful main ingredient as the last thing to depart.

Feu Secret has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This is by far my favorite of Mr. Fazzolari’s work so far. I have enjoyed everything he has made so far but there hasn’t been one which grabbed me as potently as has Feu Secret. It is my favorite new perfume of 2017 at this point.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bruno Fazzolari.

Mark Behnke