New Perfume Review Hermes Eau des Merveilles Bleue- Nagel’s Miracle Mineral Water

If there is a perfume series on which to take the temperature of an in-house perfumer at Hermes it might be the Merveilles series. Begun in 2004 with Eau des Merveilles by perfumers Ralf Schwieger and Nathalie Feisthauer. It was meant to be a salute to ambergris and it was amazing in its ability to capture the subtlety of that important fragrance ingredient. Just after Jean-Claude Ellena was named in-house perfumer one of his earliest compositions was Elixir des Merveilles. M. Ellena’s take was to float the ambergris not on top of the ocean but instead a sea of luscious chocolate. It has always been my opinion that this was M. Ellena’s response to Thierry Mugler Angel as a way of doing a sophisticated gourmand. M. Ellena would do another in 2012 L’Ambre des Merveilles which was more in keeping with his minimalist aesthetic. Now that Christine Nagel has taken over as in-house perfumer at Hermes it is her turn to add to the Merveilles line; Eau des Merveilles Bleue.

Christine Nagel

Mme Nagel decides to concentrate on the eau of the ocean for this latest Merveilles. It is a fascinating commentary on how the aquatic genre can be re-invigorated with imagination and the by resisting using Calone along with the other typical ozonic notes. In the press materials, there is this quote from Mme Nagel, “I marveled at the pebbles, wet from the ocean; they had such a particular color and luminosity, and I discovered on them a salty, mineral taste”. Instead of going for sea spray and ozone Mme Nagel chooses to go for stone and salt as she translates that “salty, mineral taste” into a perfume.

The juxtaposition of those two inspirations shows up right away. A mineralic accord is matched with a sea salt accord. To mimic the luminosity of the brine covered pebbles Mme Nagel shines a shaft of lemon to provide the sparkle of sunlight off the pebble in your hand. Then the tide goes out leaving the pebble drying out on a piece of driftwood as at least a couple of the dry woody aromachemicals are used to create a soft desiccated wood accord. All during this the mineralic accord transforms from damp stone into dried earth. The base is a mixture of white musks and patchouli. As in the previous development Mme Nagel is keeping this on the drier side which makes me think this is a fractionated patchouli being used but I am not sure of that. The bottom line is this ends in an accord of the sand drying out as the waves recede with the tide.

Eau des Merveilles Bleue has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

For nearly twenty years I avoided the aquatic genre because of its banality. In the last couple of years, I have been shown time and time again that banality is due to lack of creativity. When a perfumer really is given the freedom to create even in what seems like an overexposed segment of fragrance they can show you there is lots of space to be explored. Mme Nagel has shown that the aquatic genre is not played out it just needs imagination. She has created a new aquatic which I know I will be wearing a lot as the days get warmer. Eau des Merveilles translates to “miracle water”. Eau des Merveilles Bleue should translate to Miracle Mineral Water.

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

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 Galop D’Hermes- Perfumer Up!

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There has been no small amount of anticipation in the release of Christine Nagel’s first mainstream release for Hermes. Ever since she was tapped as the replacement for current in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena I have been wondering what Mme Nagel’s Hermes would look like. The first step of that era has arrived with the release of Galop D’Hermes.

Mme Nagel has always been one of those perfumers who has shown a consistent skill at making perfumes which are transparent but have a structure like Kevlar. This combination of strength and opacity was going to be a fitting extension of the aesthetic M. Ellena has created at Hermes during his tenure there. Galop D’Hermes is a confirmation of all of that.

Galop D’Hermes is inspired by the equestrian leather goods Hermes is known for. The bottle is in the shape of a stirrup as if it was part of one of the more decadent sets of saddlery you might imagine. Mme Nagel takes the idea of that saddle leather as the foundation of Galop D’Hermes. She really uses only two other notes in significant quantity; saffron and rose. They combine not necessarily to create a saddle accord. Instead this is a perfume of splicing together the aesthetic of Mme Nagel with Hermes. It points to greater days ahead.

Christine Nagel 1

Christine Nagel

Galop D’Hermes opens with that transparent rose. There is a feel almost as if it is a crystalline version coated in rose oil. There are sparkling facets to it especially in the first few moments. Those are removed by Mme Nagel’s use of saffron. The saffron comes on very strong. Saffron in this concentration has a kind of leathery quality making it an effective bit of connection to the leather to come. That leather is soft sueded leather. This is no saddle; it is the leather of a Birkin bag. The refinement allows it to softly caress the rose and carry it from that sparkly beginning in to the shadows the leather casts. Galop D’Hermes then beautifully exists in this state with a rose darkened by leather and tinted golden by saffron for hours.

Galop D’Hermes has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage as it is in extrait concentration.

The whole horse focused style at Hermes got me thinking about The Pony Express. The Pony Express was the mail delivery service between Missouri and California in the early days of the gold rush. Until the telegraph and then the railroad connected California to the rest of the country this was how mail was delivered. A rider would leave Missouri and, at a gallop, ride about ten miles to the next station where he would change horses and keep going. Once the rider became as tired as his steed the stationmaster would let out a call, “Rider up!” to signal one of the resting riders it was their turn to keep the mail moving. Galop D’Hermes feels like the metaphorical change of riders at Hermes. The same aesthetic is going to be elaborated upon in Mme Nagel’s way for the next few years. Galop D’Hermes is as if the call “Perfumer up!” has been answered with another brilliant rider of the olfactory trail.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hermes Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate and Eau de Neroli Dore- Compare and Contrast

One of the more interesting perfume stories is the ongoing changing of the guard in the fragrance business at Hermes. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena has been the in-house perfumer for over 10 years. Last year Christine Nagel was hired to eventually take over the reins when M. Ellena chooses to retire. I have been very interested to see Mme Nagel’s first perfume for Hermes and I’ve been kept waiting for over a year. Finally, at the end of January it was announced that there would be two new releases in the Les Colognes series. What was exciting was each perfumer would be responsible for one. As prime a compare and contrast moment as one could ask for.

This series is among the simplest fragrances from a perfume brand which has made minimalistic perfumes part of their aesthetic. Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate by Mme Nagel and Eau de Neroli Dore by M. Ellena don’t fully answer the question of how different Mme Nagel’s Hermes fragrances will be from M. Ellena’s. Yet I think there are some interesting observations to be found even within something as simple as these two perfumes are.

Christine Nagel 1

Christine Nagel

Mme Nagel composes Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate with two listed notes, rhubarb and white musks. Notice the “s” on that last ingredient. It gives some insight into how this perfume has much more than that note list might portend.

The rhubarb comes out from the very first second mixing that vegetal quality with a citrus-like quality. This is a very tricky note when hung out to be all on its own and it is for about 30-45 minutes. Either you will like it and be drawn in or it will annoy you enough you won’t notice what happens next. Like tendrils of fog Mme Nagel uses a selection of white musks to entwine themselves around the rhubarb. It was M. Ellena in Jour D’Hermes, who showed me how the right mix of multiple white musks could have a softening effect. Mme Nagel also knows this. The result is as the white musks increase in presence the rhubarb’s intensity is softened while being made much more transparent. So much so that when I thought this had worn off one of my co-workers commented on it. It is a perfume which shows the power of white musks to transform even the most obstreperous note. Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

ellena

Jean-Claude Ellena

M. Ellena’s entry Eau de Neroli Dore is equally short in notes; neroli and saffron. According to an article on Wallpaper M. Ellena’s affection for Neroli comes from his early days, “When I started out as a perfumer I learned to distill raw materials, including orange blossom. When you enter the world of stills, you are also immersed in a scent, impregnated with it, you become it. To reproduce this sensation, where normally one uses very little neroli in fragrances, I used it abundantly.” He further claims in the article that Hermes had to buy up half of the annual neroli crop from Morocco and Tunisia. Hyperbole or not this is a very concentrated neroli.

Eau de Neroli Dore opens with that neroli attempting to immerse you within it. Neroli is the only listed ingredient and it is so immersive that I feel like there might be some orange behind it all but I wonder if that is a trick of the concentration. Another aspect of having it in such high concentration is subtle green facets are apparent with nothing else to override them. The modulator for M. Ellena is to use saffron to take this neroli and evolve it. The saffron carries a dusty floralcy as well as a warm spicy glow. It adds a beating heart underneath the neroli. This never reaches the intensity of rhubarb in the Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate. Throughout it is a soft floral pitched at a volume just above a whisper. Eau de Neroli Dore has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Of course, I am going to look for signs of what is to come from these two perfumes. I think Mme Nagel shows that she has grasped the aesthetic M. Ellena has put into place while also showing she has some new ideas to explore. M. Ellena returned to an experience of his beginnings as a perfumer to create one of his final releases. Both perfumes are well worth seeking out and will be very good once summer arrives. I am excited to see what’s next from both of these talented perfumers.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Hermes.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Chopard Madness- Christine Nagel’s Fever Dream

Early in a perfumer’s career there are moments when the style they would become known for has not completely formed. I have found that in those places you can find something very interesting about a specific perfumer. One of my favorite perfumers Christine Nagel is on the verge of releasing her first fragrance as in-house perfumer for Hermes, Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate. I expect it to adhere to her wonderfully transparent lilting style of the last few years. Although it would be a wonderful surprise if she returned to a style she really only did once back in 2001 with Chopard Madness.

Christine Nagel 1

Christine Nagel

There has rarely been a perfume more aptly named than Madness. It feels like a perfume Mme Nagel came up with during a fever dream. It opens with a wild fruity floral fusillade and only gets more frenetic from there. This is not a perfume for anyone who likes smooth transitions or gentle caresses of scent. Madness slaps you across both cheeks and then continues the sweet barrage all the way until the end.

That opening smack comes with an unusual fruity floral pairing of kumquat and lychee added to rose. Mme Nagel then adds a wallop of baie rose. This all comes together with a roiling strength. The maelstrom continues into the heart with a sueded floral accord of hibiscus and leather. The top notes have all made the journey into the heart and now it feels on the edge of spinning out of control. Except it all holds together better than you might suspect. It ends with a beautifully realized rosewood focused base accord including a bit of incense and magnolia bridging the floral intensity to the woods. If you’re looking for any sign of Mme Nagel’s current style this is where you find it but you have to ride the whirlwind before arriving at it.

Chopard Madness has 16-18 hour longevity and way over the top sillage.

chopard madness

Chopard Madness was launched in the last quarter of 2001; weeks after the tragedies of September 11th in New York City. The ad campaign was actress Selma Hayak with a city skyline behind her. In a less chaotic time Madness might have found some traction. With this timing a perfume as challenging as Madness was never going to do well. People wanted soothing and comforting not the thousand-yard stare of Madness. It was quickly relegated to Chopard boutiques exclusively, within a year, and was removed from those within a couple of years. This is one of those perfumes which has been added to the Dead Letter Office due to its timing. Bottles can be found online for as little as $20. It is definitely worth the price of admission to see one of our most precise perfumers take a walk on the wild side.

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

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2016 Hopes and Wishes

As we reach the last day of 2015 it is time to look forward to 2016. Here are some things I am anticipating and/or hoping for.

christine nagel

Christine Nagel

The first fragrance from Christine Nagel for Hermes. This is a holdover from last year. I expected this to happen in 2015 but I will be very surprised if I am typing this for the third time at the end of next year. I firmly believe she is the right successor to Jean-Claude Ellena. I just want to see what she does first.

I want another great Guerlain. Over the last two years Guerlain has fallen into that pitfall of complacency. They have made solid perfume which has been so safe. It has been three years since the release of Rose Nacree du Desert, which was the last one to slay me. Surely when you are releasing over a dozen new releases per year there is a spot for something less safe and more different.

I still want that big crossover success for an independent perfumer. This has been a hope for as long as I’ve been blogging. It hasn’t quite come true yet. Although the move of Christi Meshell of House of Matriarch and Raymond Matts taking their perfumes into Nordstrom is one element that will be needed to make this come true.

perfumed-plume

I want the inaugural edition of The Perfumed Plume to be a big success. For too long as a US writer I’ve been envious of my European colleagues who have yearly awards for their writing. Lyn Leigh and Mary Ellen Lapsansky have established The Perfumed Plume to be the American version. I think there is a lot of great writing happening in the fragrant blogosphere and I want to see it recognized appropriately.

I wish for new brands to start with no more than three to five debut releases. 2015 saw more new brands coming to the market with ten or more entries. This kind of business plan is unsustainable because the little boutiques which are the life blood for a new niche brand can’t just give over shelf space for ten new perfumes with no audience. If you have ten great ideas please pick your three best and build an audience; for the other seven.

vero pensive

Vero Kern

I am hoping for a new Vero Kern release. After taking 2015 off I suspect that 2016 will bring us the follow-up to Rozy. Please don’t make me wait too long Vero.

I hope for the continued success of initiatives like Tauerville. Andy Tauer’s Tauerville line is a great introduction to independent perfumery at an attractive price point paired with perfumes which display that indie ethos. I would like to see some others make an effort to try something similar.

I ended last year’s column with this:

One non-perfume hope is for the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be the Star Wars movie I’ve been waiting thirty years for. I think JJ Abrams is the man who can actually pull that off.

Sometimes wishes do come true.

On this New Year’s Eve I convey to all the readers of Colognoisseur the Happiest of New Year’s wishes. May all of them come true in 2016.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Fendi Theorema- When Perfection Fails

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There are times when the why of how a perfume ends up in the Dead Letter Office escapes me. In doing my research for this article I can see that others who have written about this month’s perfume are equally perplexed. This month’s story is about a designer fragrance which came out at the height of the designer’s popularity. The perfumer was on her sixth fragrance but everything that has made her a star is on display for, arguably, the first time. It was on trend for the time as it married the qualities of fruity floral on an oriental base. What happened? I don’t have a clue. The perfume’s name? Now that I know, Fendi Theorema.

In 1998 Carrie Bradshaw on the HBO series Sex and the City was introducing women to the Fendi Baguette handbag. Fendi was one of the most desirable luxury brands at that time. They had been doing fragrance since 1985 but those early efforts were forgettable. In 1996 they would make a shift towards a fragrance which more clearly reflected the fashion designer aesthetic. The first pair of women’s and men’s fragrances were called Fantasia and Life Essence. These were much better than the earlier releases but still lacked something. As they got ready to make a new fragrance they would return to the perfumer responsible for Fantasia, Christine Nagel. I talk about inflection points in a perfumer’s career often. If you try Fantasia and Theorema I would bet most would have no idea it was the same perfumer. Fantasia is stock fruity floral over sandalwood. There is nothing unique about it. Two years on and Mme Nagel was beginning to get the hang of this.

christine nagel

Christine Nagel

In Theorema, for maybe the first time, she would display what has sort of become her trademark. By taking a sturdy nucleus of notes and draping them in diaphanous accords which are transparent enough for you to reach through to that foundation. It is that duality which has made Mme Nagel one of the best perfumers currently working.

Theorema opens on a candied orange accord. If you ever had those orange jelly candies which are sprinkled with sugar that is the opening of Theorema. Rose provides rich floral contrast to finish the fruity floral opening. More florals await in the heart as Mme Nagel combines osmanthus and jasmine. Along with the rose this is the very floral heart of Theorema. Now it is when those transparent films start to overlay the florals. First she takes out some spicy veils as cinnamon and baie rose settle over the florals. A set of woody veils in the presence of gaiac wood and sandalwood are next. A high pitched white musk and a rich amber provide the last bits of adornment.

Theorema has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

As I await the first release from Mme Nagel in her new position as in-house perfumer at Hermes it was fun to go back to the beginning of her career to remind myself how good she has been for so long. Theorema should still be on the shelves as it has all the construction of a classic with nothing which feels dated. Everything was perfect for its success yet it failed.

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

Mark Behnke

The Different Company 101- Five To Get You Started

The primary goal of this series is to allow someone new to the fragrance world a starting place with many of the extensive lines out there. A secondary goal is to give some attention to great fragrance collections which might not be as well known, but should be. This month I am going to introduce some of you to The Different Company.

The Different Company was founded in 2000 by Thierry de Baschmakoff and Jean-Claude Ellena. In 2003 M. de Baschmakoff would work with perfumer Celine Ellena for the next year before giving way to current creative director and CEO of the brand, Luc Gabriel in 2004. Mme Ellena would continue the collaboration until 2010.  Since 2011, M. Gabriel has brought in Emilie Coppermann for the cologne collection and Bertrand Duchaufour has contributed to the Collection Excessive. These consistent partnerships between creative director and perfumer has led to a house style which has been in place from the very first perfume released. Here are the five I would suggest to get you started.

Bois D’Iris composed by Jean-Claude Ellena was one of the first releases of The Different Company. The name promises Iris Woods and that is exactly what M. Ellena delivers as orris is surrounded by cedar. With M. Ellena it is always the grace notes which make his perfumes memorable and for Bois D’Iris it is the narcissus, vetiver, and musk which make this one of the best florals ever made by M. Ellena.

TDC_90ml_Sel de Vétiver

Sel de Vetiver composed by Celine Ellena is one of my favorite vetiver perfumes. It might be the perfume I have written the most about over the ten years I’ve been writing about fragrance. The reason for that is Mme Ellena creates an accord of drying salt water on sun-warmed skin which is combined with three different vetiver sources. I have used this perfume as the introduction to vetiver for so many.Those who like it, like me, will never be without it.

De Bachmakov composed by Celine Ellena is a transparent fragrance of winter vistas. It was inspired by the tundra of M. de Baschmakoff’s Russian heritage. Mme Ellena captures the bite of winter air by using the sharply green shiso. Coriander, nutmeg, and cedar come together to form a frozen earth accord. This is one of the best examples of minimalist perfume composition that I own.

Aurore Nomade composed by Bertrand Duchaufour marked a different aesthetic at play. M. Duchaufour in contrast to Mme Ellena is not a minimalist. It could be said he is a maximalist very often as his perfumes can seem overstuffed. Aurore Nomade is one of those perfumes overflowing with ideas. To M. Duchaufour’s credit it holds together to form an accurate evocation of the Spice Islands. With spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg along with a bit of tropical fruit cocktail all with a shot of rum swirling around; M. Duchaufour uses every bit of the potential of ylang-ylang as the central note in Aurore Nomade. It is over the top in a very good way.

Une Nuit Magnetique composed by Christine Nagel is a perfume of magnetic attraction and repulsion. Mme Nagel creates a fragrance which comes together only to be forced apart. In the top ginger and bergamot have their harmony disrupted by blueberry.  In the heart she uses prune to break up a collection of floral extroverts. The way that Une Nuit Magnetique is in constant flux on my skin has always magnetically drawn me in.

If you’re new to the brand these five will give you a good introduction to The Different Company.

Disclosure: this review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2015 Hopes and Wishes

After spending the last three days looking back over 2014 it is now time to turn our attention from over our shoulder to the far horizon. For the first day of 2015 I have a few things I hope and wish for to have happen over the next 365 days.

olivier and jacques polge

Olivier (l.) and Jacques Polge

I really want Chanel to make another great perfume. The last one which was at this level was 2008’s Sycomore for the Les Exclusifs Collection. For a brand which is one of the pillars of modern perfumery that is far too long. I hope Polge Pere et Fils collaborate on something which reminds all of us that this is one of the great perfume labels.

I hope Estee Lauder treats its new properties, Le Labo and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, with the respect they showed by wanting to acquire them. I believe they are going to do a good job with them. I hope I am right twelve months from now.

I am extremely curious to see the first perfume Christine Nagel produces for Hermes. I think she will be a worthy successor to Jean-Claude Ellena. I hope her first effort confirms that.

I want a big crossover success for an independent perfumer. When Tauer L’Air du Desert Marocain was the first to do this in 2005 it seemed like we were on the cusp of perfume by the little guys making as big an impact as the conglomerates. Since then we have not seen a success of that magnitude. There is too much talent out there right now and the Estee Lauder acquisitions has brought attention back to the niche and independent perfume sector. I know one of you has something in your creative imagination that can do this. I wish for everyone to know how good you are.

I hope the second edition of The Art + Olfaction Awards continues to grow and nurture the independent perfume community. The huge jump in submissions for the upcoming edition tells me this is more of a certainty than anything else on this page.

Elements

I hope Elements Showcase returns to New York this year. As the only US example of the great European fairs like Esxence and Pitti Fragranze I have always wanted it to succeed. As of right now they haven’t announced plans for 2015. I hope it isn’t too far into the year that I have some dates to put on my calendar.

I wish for less new releases in 2015. I also wish for a world free of hunger. Both of these wishes have about the same chance of happening.

One non-perfume hope is for the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be the Star Wars movie I’ve been waiting thirty years for. I think JJ Abrams is the man who can actually pull that off.

high dive

Finally, I wish for a very happy and healthy 2015 to all the readers of Colognoisseur. One year ago I was looking off the edge of the high dive deciding if I wanted to do my own blog. It took me a month to finally get the nerve to take the leap. For all of you looking from the edge of your own platform at that water way down there, I hope you decide to take the leap.

Mark Behnke