Colognoisseur 2017 Hopes and Wishes

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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

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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.

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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)”.

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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

New Perfume Review Puredistance Sheiduna- Arid Oriental

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When it comes to Orientals one of the things I think gets missed from this Saharan milieu they evoke is the dryness of the source. If you spend any time in the desert you rapidly understand how dry it is. Every bit of moisture is removed from the air. Most Oriental perfumes will nod to this but will add in a figurative humidity along the way. Very few will stay desiccated throughout. The new Puredistance Sheiduna is one of those which does.

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Jan Ewoud Vos and Cecile Zarokian

Jan Ewoud Vos is the owner and creative director behind Puredistance. He is a creative director who extensively works with visuals and inspiration. For Sheiduna he chose to work with Cecile Zarokian for the first time. In a blog post on the Puredistance website about their working relationship he reveals that during Mme Zarokian’s effort Mr. Vos was sending a weekly postcard with a visual and text meant to help refine the process.

The initial brief Mr. Vos provided was the name Sheiduna which he saw as a mixture of Sheika and dune. He wanted a perfume which would be a “sensual Oriental”. Mme Zarokian provided a first formulation which was seen as “too heavy and too Oriental”. As she went back to the drawing board she would go in a drier direction one that brings to life the sunset in the desert as the heat of the day begins to lose its grip.

puredistance-pure-perfume-extrait-sheiduna-st07

Mme Zarokian uses a frame of Amber Xtreme to set the boundaries for which the rest of the fragrance will be encased in. Amber Xtreme is one of those woody synthetics that can dominate a perfume. In the case of Sheiduna it is the ingredient which imparts the dryness which sets the stage. It takes a particularly skilled perfumer to overcome the overwhelming nature it can have. Mme Zarokian is one of those who knows how to tune the effect to allow other notes to breathe within this very definitive boundary. In the early going she uses a set of aldehydes to mimic that hot desert breeze skirling sand off the top of the dunes. This leads to a heart of spicy Bulgarian rose made even more spicy by the addition of cumin and clove. The two spice notes keep the rose from becoming lush or dewy. They serve as a desiccating agent as if the rose was placed in a drying jar. The aridity persists into the base as vetiver sets itself in the middle of the frame. It then is joined by benzoin, labdanum, and frankincense. They provide that moment when the setting sun drops behind the dunes and the last rays of orange flash across the sandy horizon.

Sheiduna has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have been aware of Sheiduna throughout the year and had smelled it on a patch of skin a couple of times before receiving my sample. I liked it in those previews but it wasn’t until I wore it for the couple of days necessary for me to review it that it revealed itself to me. I must tip my hat to Mr. Vos and Mme Zarokian for taking this path for I found uncommon beauty within this arid Oriental.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Puredistance.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fath’s Essentials Bel Ambre- Summer Weight Amber

I am completely in the middle of my warm weather rotation. My favorite lightweight and middleweight perfumes are coming forward to get me through the hottest days of the year. This always sees me bidding a momentary farewell to the more conspicuous ingredients which make up the cold weather section of my collection. One of my favorite notes is amber. It is the foundation of so many of my favorite Orientals it is almost synonymous with the genre. I take it as a given that there are very few amber-based perfumes which I can tolerate on the hottest days. I have found a new perfume which is an amber for the summer, Fath’s Essentials Bel Ambre.

As I wrote about previously, Fath’s Essentials is the new brand which has revived the classic Green Water plus three other new releases. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian is responsible for the entire line. The other two are typical cologne-style constructs. Curacao Bay and Vers Le Sud are Mme Zarokian’s versions of aquatic perfumes just right for the summer. Aquatic facets along with more traditional cologne components comprise both of these. They are good but they weren’t particularly exciting for me. Bel Ambre was.

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Cecile Zarokian

When Mme Zarokian handed me the strip at Esxence 2016 I was immediately drawn in by this zephyr of amber which I expected to pick up in intensity like a snowball rolling downhill until it finally bulldozed everything. Except this amber is not an ever expanding snowball. Mme Zarokian holds it at a very satisfying moderate intensity. With that in place she surrounds it with some interesting choices.

Bel Ambre opens with that amber almost lilting in its effect. It stiffens up a bit with the introduction of black pepper, caraway, and juniper berry. I like this because it is a different kind of summery fresh with the citrus removed for gin and spice. It also reinforces my belief that caraway can replace bergamot for a similar uplift without being so ubiquitous. The heart is non-powdery iris matched with a white floral accord. Mme Zarokian uses these florals to act as a garland to the still present amber. These well-known florals never rise to become cloying they stay matched to the same volume as the amber. This all comes to an end with a fabulous opaque leather accord and vetiver. It is the right place to cap this off.

Bel Ambre has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am very fond of my summer weight wardrobe of crisp linen suits with matching loose woven shirts and pants. It is a way of feeling dressed but still free in the breeze. Bel Ambre carries the same effect. It has many of the things which make up my winter amber fragrances but in a breezy free way; it is a summer weight amber.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Faths Essentials at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums MDCI Fetes Persanes- Spicy Rose Fete

One of the strengths of Parfums MDCI has been owner Claude Marchal’s delight in doing things differently. It has produced an eclectic collection encompassing many of the best releases of a given year. Starting in 2013 M. Marchal began collaborating with perfumer Cecile Zarokian. Mme Zarokian is another artist who enjoys toying with the tried and true looking for a place to turn it from common to memorable. In particular, the last release for Parfums MDCI, Les Indes Galantes, was a fantastic updating of the gourmand style of perfume. For their latest release, Fetes Persanes, they are creating a baroque floral with some of those twists Mme Zarokian is becoming known for.

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Claude Marchal

The inspiration of for Fetes Persanes comes from a movement within Jean-Philippe Rameau’s musical work Les Indes Galantes. This is the part of the opera which describes a Persian Feast which coincidentally is a flower festival. Fetes Persanes is meant to capture that combination of the smells of the feast in conjunction with the flower power surrounding it. If it sounds like it is going to be a gigantic floral that is where M. Marchal and Mme Zarokian enjoy playing with our preconceived notions.

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Cecile Zarokian

The fragrant feast opens with black pepper out front. If I am looking for flowers and am greeted with the spicy black pepper I am alerted right away this is not going to be what I think. The spice theme continues as the smells of the spices used to prepare the food come in to focus. Mme Zarokian uses a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, and clove. She keeps these weighted in such a way so that they aren’t too heavy but I wouldn’t describe them as transparent. Then in what I think is a very intelligent choice there aren’t multiple floral notes there is just one, rose. Mme Zarokian has shown in the past she knows how to get the most out of rose. In Fetes Persanes she uses a bit of geranium to bring forward some of the greener facets. The spices settle among the petals matching the characteristic spicy core of a good rose. This is a very good rose accord made up of three or four sources. Patchouli provides a transition from the flower festival back to the food for dessert. Clean woods of gaiac and cedar frame a luscious vanilla. This plays off the softness of a white musk cocktail.

Fetes Persanes has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I really like that M. Marchal chose to make Fetes Persanes not a literal flower festival but a festival of rose swathed in spices. This is a party well worth spending some time at.

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stefania Squeglia presenting a Spring Fling 2016

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

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

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

Mary and Cecile of Puredistance

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jacques Fath Faths Essentials Green Water- Meeting an Old Friend

There is probably no more difficult task for a perfumer to try and come up with a modern version of one of the early 20th century classic perfumes. The best of those fragrances have achieved near mythical status as perfume lovers attempt to find vintage bottles. This desire has led to companies wanting to release new versions to take advantage of this. The biggest problem facing the current perfumer is trying to make a perfume where many of the ingredients are no longer allowed to be used or have risen in price so dramatically that synthetic equivalents need to be employed. This usually has the effect of the newer version having the feel of a lithograph; lacking the vibrancy of the original. It can be particularly frustrating when I know how much lesser the new version is. I am still hopeful especially when the perfumer behind the new version is one I admire. The new Jacques Fath Faths Essential Green Water was one I was hopeful for.

The original Jacques Fath Green Water, from 1946, is one of the few perfumes which manages to use mint without reminding me of dental care products. Original perfumer Vincent Roubert uses it as part of a citrus and neroli accord before really getting green in the foundation with vetiver and oakmoss. The amount of neroli being used here is massive. The use of the mint and the cost of getting the orange blossom concentration correct were but two of the challenges facing perfumer Cecile Zarokian as she took on the challenge of making a 2016 version of Green Water.

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Cecile Zarokian

Mme Zarokian dealt with the easiest of the problems by convincing the powers at Jacques Fath there was no substitute for lowering the neroli concentration. In that case she was able to hold the line and the neroli in this new version is as densely potent as it was in the original. The mint was going to be another thing. Mme Zarokian decided to take the mint and make it the leader of a selection of herbal notes. It helps control the mint and remind one that it is also an herb. It keeps it from being the presence that it is in the original but in this case it seemed less important to me. Keeping the neroli at the previous level was the more important battle to win.

The new version of Green Water opens with that mixture of citrus as lemon and orange add a snappy beginning. Then the lush neroli rises up on all sides. It is beautifully encompassing. The mint arrives with caraway, tarragon, and basil in attendance. The basil in particular really attenuates the mint. I like this change as it is more herbal than in the original. It is what really separates it from that. The base is vetiver and the low atranol version of oakmoss. Mme Zarokian adds in a bit of ambergris to add interesting depth to the variant on the original base accord.

Green Water has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mme Zarokian has successfully taken on the challenge of reinterpreting a classic. Her diligence at getting something close to the original without feeling like something lesser is laudable. I am looking forward to wearing this new version of Green Water during this upcoming spring and summer. It feels like seeing an old friend after many years with changes for the better.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Jacques Fath at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums MDCI Les Indes Galantes- C&C Cupcakes

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For being one of the most recent sub genres of perfume the Gourmand sector has been in danger of becoming a cliché. It has gone from delightfully decadent to boringly banal in what seems record time. Too many releases throw together some fruit, some sugar, some spice, and drench it all in vanilla. Maybe one different ingredient, or two, but the result is the same; a seemingly endless assembly line of bland vanilla cupcakes. Thankfully Claude Marchal owner and creative director of Parfums MDCI does not believe in corporate constructed pablum. His vision is of a gourmand that is like a hand-made cupcake which makes the boring other ones seem even less appealing. That is what Les Indes Galantes achieves.

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Claude Marchal

The name comes from the ballet heroique composed by Jean-Philippe Rameau. One of the nice things about some of the names of perfume is I learn something new. This is a work and composer I am completely unfamiliar with. Wikipedia tells me he was the foremost French opera composer during the Baroque period and he played a mean harpsichord. There is nothing about the fragrance which connects to this in any way I can discern,

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Cecile Zarokian

M. Marchal collaborates again with perfumer Cecile Zarokian on their third fragrance for Parfums MDCI. This is the first Gourmand for MDCI and it is only the second in Mme Zarokian’s young career. That relative freshness at approaching a perfume like Les Indes Galantes might be the reason it feels so different to me. Many of the same familiar levels of this type of fragrance are present but M. Marchal and Mme Zarokian take a different tack throughout Les Indes Galantes.

Citrus and berries is a well-worn opening. Mme Zarokian takes the orange and the raspberry but she enhances the tartness of the orange with a good amount of bergamot. The raspberry is elided of much of its juicy berry character by the use of almond restraining that exuberance. This makes the top layer a tug of war between bitter and sweet. In the heart the spices arrive. The three Mme Zarokian chooses are cinnamon, clove, and coriander. In a lesser perfume the cinnamon would lead the way. Mme Zarokian inverts that thinking with the coriander and clove on top and the cinnamon providing a simmering warmth underneath. In the base here comes the vanilla and benzoin but Mme Zarokina turns it exotic with a set of unusual notes to turn the boring into beauty. Labdanum, leather, and heliotrope all provide contrast on top of the sweet.

Les Indes Galantes has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

It is so striking when something different in an overextended sector comes along. Les Indes Galantes is like seeing gourmands with new eyes. I can only hope for another lovely cupcake from Claude & Cecile sometime in the future.

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

Mark Behnke