New Perfume Review Nishane Ani- Rekindling the Glory

There are brands which confound me. They can play it safe so much of the time and then truly amaze me when I am not expecting it. I ask myself why they can’t work this way all the time. One brand which continues to do this to me is Istanbul-based Nishane. When they find a unique perspective, they have a way of turning it into magic. It happened again with Nishane Ani.

Mert Guzel (l.) and Murat Katran

Nishane is the brand co-founded and creatively directed by Mert Guzel and Murat Katran. They have been around since 2015 and have made some of my favorite perfumes in Afrika Olifant and Pachuli Kozha. For the last few years I have been disappointed in what seemed to be the choice to take a safer route. Every brand must make the business decisions which are correct for them to survive. I was disappointed because I know there was the ability for more. Ani is what I mean when I say that.

Cecile Zarokian

The name comes from a medieval city currently in Turkey. In its time it was a place known as the “City of 1001 Churches” as well as sitting at the crossroads of many trade routes. It was a multi-cultural metropolis. It holds a pride of place for Armenian and Turkish people. This is of interest because Messrs. Guzel and Katran asked perfumer Cecile Zarokian, who has Armenian heritage, to create a perfume version.

This is the first perfume Mme Zarokian has composed for Nishane. It is focused around vanilla. It is also another of Mme Zarokian’s recent perfumes which continues to explore the boundaries of the gourmand genre. She is putting together a group of releases which show how much room there is to expand within this style of fragrance.

Ani opens with that vanilla out front. What takes place in the early going is a reminder that vanilla comes from an orchid. The top accord is like finding that flower in the jungle as she fashions a humid green accord. She uses a set of green notes to create a green strand within the vanilla. Baie rose is used to give it an herbal infusion. The keynote to this accord is a fabulous ginger which creates a kinetic vibrant version of vanilla. The ginger persists into the heart as the vanilla rises in intensity. Mme Zarokian uses a green cardamom to re-establish the green. Damascene rose and blackcurrant add a floral fruity frisson underneath it all. As the vanilla comes to its full intensity it finds an equally intense sandalwood waiting in the base. They swirl together in a sweet duet which is warmed by benzoin and patchouli.

Ani has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

A warning I am writing about Ani in the summertime. This is not a warm weather fragrance. It is a powerhouse which is going to be awesome when the weather cools off.

Ani is the best perfume Nishane has ever produced. It is also one of my favorite new perfumes of this year. It is a triumph on every level. You can feel that the creative team wanted to find something as regal as Ani, the city, was in its day. Ani, the perfume, rekindles that glory.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums MDCI Bleu Satin- Watermelon Addition

When it comes to the tropes of gender in perfume there is a question I am asked frequently. Is it too floral for a guy? This is hardly a new question it has been around for as long as I have worn fragrance. Even I was a bit susceptible to it when I made the decision to wear a “feminine” floral perfume out into the world many years ago. I survived. Now I wear what smells good to me. Even though the occasional co-worker will ask me if what I’m wearing on the day isn’t too floral for me. Over the years florals have been a hard sell on the masculine side of perfume. What has also interested me is the floral partner in many perfumes marketed to women is fruit. For some reason a fruit forward style of fragrance isn’t seen as only for women. I’m happy that this is true because there have been many excellent masculine fruity perfumes to which I can add Parfums MDCI Bleu Satin.

Claude Marchal

Owner-Creative Director of Parfums MDCI, Claude Marchal, has released a new three perfume set called “The Paintings Collection”. Each of the three fragrances has a famous painting reproduced on the label of the bottle. They are all varying interpretations of leather colognes. I’m reviewing Bleu Satin first because it is much more fruit than leather.

Cecile Zarokian

M. Marchal collaborates again with perfumer Cecile Zarokian. The clever decision made by the creative team is to infuse a kind of classic drugstore leather perfume of the 1970’s with a contemporary fruity counterpoint. To up the degree of difficulty they chose watermelon as the fruit.

I don’t know whether watermelon as a perfume ingredient is difficult to work with. I do know for my sensibilities it is hard to find the balance between fresh sweetness and kid’s sugar candy. Mme Zarokian finds the sweet spot as she surrounds it with a throwback leather perfume my father would have owned.

Bleu Satin opens with a green tinted citrus accord. Mme Zarokian keeps it fresh. Then the fruit comes as the watermelon supported by blackcurrant forms a lusher fruitiness. This is a lively opening set of ingredients. An indole-free jasmine expands the fruity accord into something opaquer. Then the classic cologne leather accord appears. To give it some more polish Mme Zarokian infuses it with saffron. This ups the sophistication level from the drugstore to the atelier. It ends with a mix of woods which also hearkens back to the classic leather colognes of yesteryear.

Bleu Satin has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Even though Bleu Satin has some of that powerhouse leather cologne heritage in it Mme Zarokian keeps the volume turned down. You won’t be leaving 100-yard sillage behind you. Bleu Satin is more personal than that. I enjoyed Bleu Satin on the two spring days I wore it because it wasn’t so “loud”. Bleu Satin is another fruit forward perfume I think a lot of men are going to enjoy.

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

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2018: Part 1- Overview

1

2018 was a year in which the perfume companies more firmly tuned their fragrances towards a younger generation. I tried 701 new perfume releases this past year. If there was one dominant trend it was towards transparent styles; especially in the mainstream sector. It also meant simpler constructs using three to five ingredients. The difficulty I had with this is the great majority of these perfumes fell apart with any scrutiny. Too often transparent minimalism could be summarized succinctly as insipid. Slightly more charitable it was a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes as the brands tried to sell more and more “nothing there” product. The best (worst?) example was the twenty-five releases, at one time, from clothing brand H&M. They didn’t even disguise their attempt to push out a wave of poorly made fragrance. It was a bad joke which made me wish I had only tried 676 new perfumes this year.

Transparent New Clothes for The Emperor

I have had some problems embracing the whole trend because I believe its success requires a very skilled perfumer. Proof of that would come early in the fall with the release of Cartier Carat as in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent produced a magnificently kinetic transparent floral. It would be followed by the McQueen Collection of soliflore-like constructions employing some of the best perfumers to show the potential of this style of perfume making.

Another emerging trend is the rise of gourmand style perfumes. This might be the last genre of fragrance which has not been terribly overexposed. It means it is fertile ground for brands to make a statement. It also is a style which adapts well to the transparency. Jovoy Remember Me by perfumer Cecile Zarokian was an audacious attempt to push the form forward. I think we will see a spectacular contemporary gourmand soon.

If the perceived banality of the mainstream releases was getting me down the independent perfumers were here to rescue me. They were ready to give me the jump start I needed to throw off my malaise.

Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes would oversee the funk of Hyrax with perfumer Sven Pritzkoleit and the prehistoric jungle fire of Tyrannosaurus Rex by perfumer Antonio Gardoni.

Nicole Miller of Blackbird sent out the skanky banana of Y06-S and the oddly compelling plum gourmand Anemone.

Amber Jobin of Aether Arts Perfume created The AI Series which was experimental perfumery of the highest order.

Hiram Green produced a birch tar overload in Hyde a complete opposite of the enticing tobacco and honey of Slowdive.

Of course, 2018 ended with the loss of one of the great independent perfumers, Vero Kern. As that happened, I was reminded of the old saying “when a door closes a window opens”. The window might be looking toward Turkish perfumer Omer Ipecki and his Pekji brand. Mr. Ipecki like Fr. Kern took years to perfect his perfumes before releasing them. He listened to his own artistic vision while displaying an independent swagger. I know I’m laying a large burden on Mr. Ipecki’s shoulders I am hopeful he will bear it with good humor.

If there was a disappointment it was from the niche brands. Many of them safely stayed within their well-trodden lanes. I feel somewhat churlish for saying this because there were many I liked, but very few of them tried anything different. As I looked back it seemed like too many of the brands found a successful space which they continued within. As I think will become apparent over the next two days there were few which stood out.

I still retain my excitement about perfume as it exists in 2018. As I reveal my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director and Brand of the Year tomorrow and the Top 25 new perfumes the day after these are the reasons why I feel that way.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fath’s Essentials Tempete D’Automne and Red Shoes- Scent of a Muse

In yesterday’s review of Fath’s Essentials Le Loden and Velours Boise I mentioned this has been a heritage brand which has drawn from its history to make contemporary perfumes. In the perfumes composed by Luca Maffei he focused on the materials designer Jacques Fath would become known for. The other two of the new Fath’s Essentials releases, Tempete D’Automne and Red Shoes, focus on the muse of M. Fath.

Bettina in the 1950 September Issue of Vogue as photographed by Irving Penn

Today you aren’t an elite model until you are known by one name. That trend was begun in 1946 by M. Fath when he met Simone Micheline Bodin. He already had a model named Simone so he called her “Bettina”. She was his muse the apex of his designing career. The perfumes celebrating her are composed by Cecile Zarokian. Tempete D’Automne celebrates the short haircut inspired by M. Fath’s American trip where he was enamored of the crew cut look he saw. Red Shoes are from that iconic Irving Penn photo above from the 1950 September Issue of Vogue.

In Tempete D’Automne Mme Zarokian was looking to fuse the personality of Bettina with her androgynous look in the new haircut. It makes for fragrance of two phases. The first I think of as the bright laugh of someone who is enjoying herself. A giggle of citrus and baie rose turns into a full-throated laugh of cinnamon and coriander contrasted with lavender and ylang-ylang. The opening moments of Tempete D’Automne are kinetic. This is a joyful style. Mme Zarokian grounds it in a creamy sandalwood sweetened with tonka bean. This makes it an especially sweet version of this woody ingredient. A set of animalic musks with a leather accord rounds out everything.

Cecile Zarokian

It is exactly that picture above that Mme Zarokian used as her muse for designing Red Shoes. The top accord is meant to capture that blue stole. Mme Zarokian blends a mixture of aldehydes over grapefruit and berries. This is that sharp contrast of blue against red in the photo. The aldehydes act as if they are swirling around it all like the stole does. The dominant color of it all comes in a vibrant Rose Damascene absolute that explodes through the aldehydes as ginger and baie rose launch it upward. This is one of Mme Zarokian’s best rose accords. It is expansive along with a weight that doesn’t usually accompany that adjective. This is matched with a powerful patchouli which provides the grounding for that rose which preceded it. Once this all comes together it makes an impact; just as Bettina did.

Tempete D’Automne and Red Shoes have 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Red Shoes is among the best perfumes Mme Zarokian has made. What shouldn’t get lost is the more genteel charms of Tempete D’Automne which is a wonderful cozy sandalwood.

Creative director for Jacques Fath fragrances Rania Naim has allowed both of the perfumers to find what makes the brand unique and successfully translate it into perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Jacques Fath.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Majda Bekkali Mon Nom est Rouge- My Kind of Rose

For those of you who put up with my annual grumpiness over the deluge of spring rose perfumes it would probably surprise you to know one of my very favorite perfumes is an unabashed rose perfume. I would further mention that you might expect it isn’t a typical rose perfume which I would hold in such high esteem. It is also typical that it would come from a small niche brand along with being composed by one of my favorite perfumers. All the above means it is a perfect choice for this column. The perfume I am describing is Majda Bekkali Mon Nom est Rouge.

Mon Nom est Rouge was released in 2013 as part of the second set of releases for the brand. Majda Bekkali was working with many established names in the early days. The perfumer for Mon Nom est Rouge was a young woman, Cecile Zarokian, who used the opportunity to create one of the most memorable perfumes I own.

Cecile Zarokian

The name comes from the novel by Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk. The story takes place with the miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire. The story is also one of those fractured narratives where dead people narrate and others are imperfect witnesses. The perfume reflects all of that as even though it is one of her earliest perfumes it is also one of Mme Zarokian’s most precise constructs. It also is a fractured rose perfume where it isn’t just presented as a pretty piece of fragrance. In Mon Nom est Rouge it passes away only to arise again.

The perfume opens with a fantastic accord of aldehydes wrapped around a shiny metallic accord. The hair spray quality of the aldehydes fits right in with the chrome-like accord. Out of this arises a Turkish rose as if it is chrome covered itself. This is followed by the heat of spices as Mme Zarokian precisely uses cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, baie rose, pepper, and ginger to scour that chrome off the rose to lay bare the flower itself. It then combines with tobacco, incense, sandalwood, and musk for the base accord.

Mon Nom est Rouge has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mon Nom est Rouge is the perfume I turn to when the deluge of spring rose perfumes has me at my grouchiest. It reminds me that in the hands of a skilled artist like Mme Zarokian rose still has relevance. If you need a reminder of that Mon Nom est Rouge needs to be on your radar screen.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jovoy Remember Me- Where Gourmand Is Going

It seems like we are at the beginning of a creative upswing around the gourmand genre of perfume. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is purely creative. The gourmand style has only been in existence for 26 years and it has only seen any kind of serious consideration over the past decade. That means there is room for imagination to flourish. Another reason is the younger perfume generation seems to prefer floral gourmands. These have been some of the early mass-market winners. Which should then lead to the independent and niche perfume brands to provide more sophisticated versions. The great majority of the gourmand perfumes rely on strongly edible sweet central accords. There has been a lack of trying to find a contrasting accord which explores the places they mesh while providing depth. Perhaps Jovoy Remember Me is an example of where gourmand is going.

Francois Henin

Creative director for Jovoy, Francois Henin, and perfumer Cecile Zarokian took a trip to Doha, Qatar. They were there looking at the uniquely Middle Eastern ingredients which have become popular in perfumery. While they were taking a break from their business they stopped to visit local friends. Which is where inspiration would strike. They were served a Qatari drink called Karak tea. It is an offshoot of chai tea most are familiar with. The scent of the drink struck both as it was paired with a breeze flowing through the frangipani growing in the garden. They walked away wanting to capture this as a perfume. If that was what ended up in the bottle, and it does, that would have been enough to be a memorable gourmand. What elevates Remember Me is Mme Zarokian contrasts it with one of the best leather accords she has produced.

Celine Zarokian

It opens with the spices of cardamom and ginger. A dollop of lemon chills the heat, of especially the ginger, as Mme Zarokian pushes the concentration of that ingredient. Black tea, milk and vanilla provide the rest of the chai accord. It is creamy with a curl of steam rising off it. Mme Zarokian then floats the frangipani over the top. This sets up the final accord of luxurious suede leather. All refined leather carries a sweetness. This accord picks out that thread, so it can harmonize with the chai and the frangipani. It sets up a fascinating triad. Underneath which slips the rawer, but smooth, aspects of the leather. It is a compelling give and take over the hours it stays on my skin in this state.

Remember Me has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Remember Me occupies a unique space within the gourmand genre. There are few fragrances similar and none which are better than it. These are exceedingly small data sets. Although I think that might be changing. If it does Remember Me might be remembered for being one of the earliest bellwethers of a new day for gourmands.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2017 Hopes and Wishes

4

As we put 2016 to bed it is time to look forward to 2017. I like to end every year with some things I am anticipating and/or hoping for to happen in the next twelve months.

C'mon Vero, Pretty Please?

A new perfume from Vero Kern. It has almost been three years since the release of Rozy. Vero has teased us a little bit that the next one is going to be a tobacco focused fragrance. I know it will come out when she feels it is ready but my inner five-year old is getting ready to wail if I lead off this piece in twelve months with the same wish.

I would like new brands to put fragrance over marketing. I went back and looked; 2016 was no worse for the number of brand debuts sporting upwards of six perfumes. What did seem to be worse was the pricing for perfumes where the money did not seem to be in the bottle. Please if you’re a brand-new brand focus on the perfume; make it great. Try and only do three or four perfumes. Don’t rush to the market.

Le Labo Counter at Tyson's Corner Mall in Virginia

More Le Labo, more places. There was a lot of worry over Estee Lauder’s acquisition of Le Labo. One of the things I have thought is necessary for niche perfume to really expand is more access. In my local mall, they installed a Le Labo counter in the local Nordstrom’s. When it first opened in April it was busy on every visit but nothing like it was on my Holiday visit. Le Labo is one of the exemplars of what it means to be a niche perfume. Estee Lauder taking it to the mall shows that consumers will gravitate to quality if it is right in front of them. I am hoping that this will be rolled out across the country in places where niche is not readily available.

I want a masterpiece from Perfumers: The Next Generation…all of them. Quentin Bisch, Cristiano Canali, Luca Maffei, Julien Rasquinet, and Cecile Zarokian are this set of next generation perfumers I think of as the next set of rule-breakers. They have all consistently stepped up their game over the last couple of years. I want 2017 to have a release from each of them that makes my choice for Perfume of the Year the most difficult it has ever been. Make it so!

I hope we found the ceiling. For the first time since I’ve been writing about perfume the number of new releases were about the same in 2016 as they were in 2015. I always believed there was a number where the market could not continue to expand beyond. 2017, if it stays about the same, can be the third data point which confirms this.

Can this Spring be about something other than rose? The last two years I have been buried by fresh clean rose perfumes for Spring. I can hope that maybe a new floral can take center stage. Jasmine, perhaps?

On this final day of 2016 I want to wish every single reader the Happiest and Healthiest of New Years. Colognoisseur has grown beyond the goals I set for myself back when I started almost three years ago. For that I must thank everyone who spends a couple minutes here reading my writing. I hope 2017 brings us even more perfumed joy.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2016 Year-End Review Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, & Brand of the Year

As I mentioned in Part 1 2016 is the beginning of a generational shift in perfumery. The winners I am going to highlight next are all emblematic of that kind of change.

Perfume of the Year: Masque Milano L’Attesa– One of the emerging initiatives over the course of 2016 has been the confidence owners and creative directors have placed in young perfumers. For a brand, it is safer to round up one of the more established names. It takes a bit of faith to place the success of your business in the hands of an emerging artist. The team behind Masque Milano, Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, have taken on this philosophy wholeheartedly. Particularly over the last four releases since 2013; Tango by Cecile Zarokian, Russian Tea by Julien Rasquinet, and Romanza by Cristiano Canali, began the trend. This year’s release L’Attesa by Luca Maffei took it to a new level.

Riccardo Tedeschi, Luca Maffei, and Alessandro Brun (l. to r.)

I spent time with the creative team when they unveiled L’Attesa at Esxence 2016. I think when you do something creative you have a sense when you have done great work. That day in Milan all three men radiated that kind of confidence; with good reason. Sig. Maffei would combine three sources of iris to provide a strong core of the central note. Early on there is a champagne accord that is not meant to be the bubbly final product but the yeasty fermentation stage. It turns the powdery iris less elegant but more compelling for its difference. Through a white flower heart to a leathery finish L’Attesa is as good as it gets.

Cecile Zarokian with Puredistance Sheiduna

Perfumer of the Year: Cecile Zarokian– Majda Bekkali Mon Nom est Rouge, in 2012, was the first perfume by Cecile Zarokian which made me think she was something special. Over the years since then she has done some spectacular work but 2016 was an exceptional year. Mme Zarokian produced thirteen new releases for seven different brands. I chose her because of the breadth of the work she turned in over the year. I am reasonably certain that this kind of output has rarely been matched. The pinnacle of this group was her re-formulation of Faths Essentials Green Water. Mme Zarokian accomplished the near impossible by formulating a 2016 version which is as good as the original. She did this because she understood what made the original was its ridiculous concentration of neroli oil. She convinced creative director Rania Naim to spend the money for this now precious material to be replicated in the same concentration. This made Green Water amazingly true to its name.

She would recreate a Persian feast in Parfums MDCI Fetes Persanes. Picking up on some of the same themes she would infuse some of the gourmand elements into a rich oud in Making of Cannes Magie du Desert.  She modernized the oud in Hayari New Oud. In Uer Mi OR+Cashmere she creates a hazelnut rum cocktail. Laboratorio Olfattivo Nerotic goes for a more narcotic effect. Finally working with creative director Jan Ewoud Vos they conspired to reinterpret the Oriental creating a contemporary version in Puredistance Sheiduna.

Every perfume she made this year was worth smelling. As this next generation of perfumers moves into the next phase Mme Zarokian is going to be right there in the front pushing perfumery forward. For this joie de vivre about perfumery Cecile Zarokian is my Perfumer of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Luca Maffei, Quentin Bisch, Christine Nagel, Jerome Epinette, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, and Antonio Gardoni.

Creative Director of the Year: Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes- For the ten years plus I’ve been writing about perfume I have chanted a single mantra; embrace difference, don’t play it safe, stake out an artistic vision and stick with it. There are way too few who embrace this. Because it isn’t easy there is a graveyard of some who tried and failed. All of which makes what Victor Wong has been doing with his brand Zoologist Perfumes more admirable. Two years ago, he started Zoologist Perfumes making the transition from enthusiast to owner/creative director. He wanted to work with some of the most talented artisanal perfumers to produce his perfumes. What is so refreshing about this approach is he has been working with many of the most recognizable artisans providing them outside creative direction for one of the few times. What it has elicited from these perfumers is often among the best work they have produced. For the three 2016 releases Bat with Ellen Covey, Macaque with Sarah McCartney, and Nightingale with Tomoo Inaba this has been particularly true. Bat is one of the perfumes which was in the running for my Perfume of the Year. Macaque and Nightingale do not play it safe in any way. This makes for a perfume brand which does not look for the lowest common denominator but asks if there is something more beautiful in unfettered collaboration. For Victor Wong and Zoologist Perfumes 2016 answers this with a resounding yes which is why he is my choice for Creative Director of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Jan Ahlgren (Vilhelm Parfumerie), Ben Gorham (Byredo), Roberto Drago (Laboratorio Olfattivo), and Carlos Huber (Arquiste).

Brand of the Year: Hermes– In 2003 Hermes in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena would begin his tenure. Over the next thirteen years his overall collection for the brand has defined a modern aesthetic which now has become synonymous with the brand as much as silk scarves and fine leather goods. When it was announced two years ago, Christine Nagel would begin the transition to becoming the new in-house perfumer there was some concern. I was not one of those who had any worries. Mme Nagel felt like a natural evolution from M. Ellena. 2016 proved my surmise to be true as M. Ellena released his presumed final two fragrances for the brand, Eau de Neroli Dore and Hermessence Muguet Porcelaine while Mme Nagel released her first two, Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate and Galop D’Hermes. The passing of the torch could not have gone smoother. Hermes is in great hands as the next generation takes over. That this was accomplished so beautifully effortless is why Hermes is my Brand of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Byredo, Vilhelm Parfumerie, Tauer Perfumes/Tauerville, and Zoologist Perfumes.

Part 1 was my broad overview of the year yesterday.

Part 3 tomorrow will be my Top 25 new perfumes of 2016.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2016 Year-End Review Part 1- Overview

3

2016 will probably go down as a pivotal year in the perfume business. As an observer of much of the field this year I have seen change in almost every place I can see. Which leads me to believe it is also taking place behind the scenes where I am not able to know the entire story. Change like this can be unsettling which has made for some worrying trends but overall I think it has contributed to another excellent year. I smelled a little less this year than last year; 680 new perfumes versus 2015’s 686. Surprisingly the amount of new releases has also plateaued with 1566 new releases in 2016 versus 1676 last year. Maybe we have defined the amount of new perfume the market can bear. Over the next three days I will share my thoughts on the year coming to an end.

We are told in Ecclesiastes, or by The Byrds if you prefer; “To every thing there is a season” and so it is in perfume as the season of the Baby Boomers has ended and the Millennials have taken over. This younger generation is now larger, has more discretionary income, and is spending more on perfume than the Boomers are per multiple sources. While the public at large was made aware of it this year the industry could see the change coming a year, or more, prior. What that meant for 2016 as far as fragrance went was every corporate perfume entity was on a fishing expedition to see if they could be the one who lured this group of consumers towards them. The drive for this is huge because lifelong brand loyalties can be formed right now within this group. Certainly, the enduring trends of the next few years in fragrance will be determined by where they spend their money. All of that has made 2016 fascinating because at the end of the year that answer is no clearer than it was at the beginning. The prevailing themes, based on what was provided to them, is they want lighter in sillage and aesthetic, gourmand, and different. That last category is the ephemeral key I think. The brand which can find them in the place where they Periscope, Snapchat, and Instagram is going to have an advantage.

Christine Nagel (l.) and Olivier Polge

There was also generational change taking place at two of the most prestigious perfume brands, Hermes and Chanel. The new in-house perfumers for both took full control in 2016. Christine Nagel released Hermes Eau du Rhubarbe Ecarlate and Galop D’Hermes. Olivier Polge released Chanel Boy and Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. This shows both talented artists know how to take an existing brand aesthetic and make it their own.

Cecile Zarokian, Quentin Bisch, Luca Maffei (l. to r.)

The next generation of perfumers exemplified by Cecile Zarokian, Quentin Bisch, and Luca Maffei loomed large this year. Mme Zarokian did thirteen new releases in 2016 all of them distinctively delightful from the re-formulation of Faths Essentials Green Water to the contemporary Oriental Puredistance Sheiduna. M. Bisch brilliantly reinvented one of the masterpieces of perfume in Thierry Mugler Angel Muse. Sig. Maffei released ten new fragrances with Masque Milano L’Attesa, Laboratorio Olfattivo MyLO, and Jul et Mad Secrets du Paradis Rouge showcasing his range. 

There were also fascinating collaborations this year. Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari contributed Cadavre Exquis an off-beat gourmand. Josh Meyer and Sam Rader conspired to create a Northern California Holiday bonfire in Dasein Winter Nights. Victor Wong the owner and creative director of Zoologist Perfumes was able to get the most out of independent perfumers like Ellen Covey in Bat and Sarah McCartney in Macaque.

Some of the independent perfumers I look to surprisingly released perfumes which did not please me. Thankfully there were new ones who stepped up to fill in the gap. Lesli Wood Peterson of La Curie, Ludmila and Antoine Bitar of Ideo Parfumeurs, and Eugene & Emrys Au of Auphorie did that. Chritsti Meshell of House of Matriarch made an ambitious economic move into Nordstrom while producing two of my favorites from her in Albatross and Kazimi.

The mainstream sector had another strong year as the mall continues to have diamonds hidden amongst the dross. In 2016 that meant Elizabeth & James Nirvana Bourbon, Alford & Hoff No. 3, SJP Stash, Prada Infusion de Mimosa, Thierry Mugler Angel Muse, and Chanel No. 5 L’Eau were there to be found.

If the beginning of the year was all about rose the overall year was a renaissance for neroli perfumes. Jean-Claude Ellena’s swan song for Hermes; Eau de Neroli Dore. The afore mentioned Green Water along with Jo Malone Basil & Neroli and Hiram Green Dilettante showed the versatility of the note.

The acquisition of niche brands continued with Estee Lauder buying By Kilian and L’Oreal doing the same with Atelier Cologne. The acquisitions of Frederic Malle and Le Labo, two years ago, seem to have been positive steps for both brands. Especially seeing Le Labo in my local mall getting such a positive reception made me believe that if the good niche brands can become more available the consumer will appreciate the difference.

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

The next day I will reveal my Top 25 New Releases of 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Laboratorio Olfativo Nerotic- Lucky Thirteen

Back in 2010 when I discovered the new perfume line Laboratorio Olfattivo I got the impression that the man who was behind the brand also loved perfume. When I met that creative director for the brand, Roberto Drago, my suspicion was confirmed. The time I spend speaking with Sig. Drago when I travel to the Italian perfume expositions is never the typical blogger trying to get more information on new releases. We have spoken at length about ways to broaden the audience for niche perfumery, the crowded marketplace, and our favorite new releases. Sig. Drago believes in the potential of perfume as much as I do.

roberto drago 1

Roberto Drago

Throughout the ten years that Laboratorio Olfattivo has been releasing fragrances it has also become a place where independent perfumers can create a little more freely. One perfumer for whom this freedom has been very good for is Cecile Zarokian. Mme Zarokian is another with whom I have spent many hours talking about perfume making. Nerotic is the third fragrance Mme Zarokian has collaborated with Sig. Drago on. Nerotic is the first release in a new sub-collection named “Laboratorio in Nero” where the clear bottle is replaced with a black one. This collection is going to be characterized by more “complex formula(s)”.

cecile-zarokian-3

Cecile Zarokian

Nerotic is meant to be a portmanteau of neurotic and narcotic. What I found interesting about the way Mme Zarokian interpreted that combination was to create deep accords around which a textural note flits in and out making a wearer wonder if it is truly there. The hide and seek nature of these notes didn’t necessarily make me neurotic but it was interesting to experience.

Mme Zarokian opens Nerotic with berries and citrus. A sweetly tart opening which seemed to settle in except saffron kept showing up and then leaving. I like saffron as a foil to fruity openings and when it holds itself in check it makes that common fruity opening more exotic. Mme Zarokian seemingly uses a smaller amount to give that in and out effect I am enjoying. The green rose of geranium is matched with a leather accord in the heart. The leather accord is the black leather version which the geranium contrasts nicely. The neurotic note here is a very green coriander which when it shows up it causes the geranium to pulse with vitality within the leather. It forms a fantastic heart accord. The base is sandalwood and one of the woody-amber aromachemicals. There is a nice bit of tension between the sweeter nature of sandalwood up against the sharp edges of the synthetic. The final touch is a lazy curl of smoke which wends its way through the woods as if they were warm enough to burst into flame.

Nerotic has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is the thirteenth new release composed by Mme Zarokian in 2016. It is testament to her ever-developing skills that each of these thirteen perfumes stand distinctly on their own. Sig. Drago’s freedom to create has allowed her to cap the year with Nerotic as lucky thirteen.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Laboratorio Olfattivo.

Mark Behnke