New Perfume Review Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver- Vetiver on Top

If you are succeeding a perfume legend would you step right up and invite comparison? I think if you are confident in your abilities the answer is yes. The perfumer who succeeded Jean-Claude Ellena as in-house perfumer at Hermes, Christine Nagel has spent some time showing she is confident enough to invite those comparisons. I have been very impressed with her early releases for Hermes. Even so I admit some trepidation at the thought of her creating a flanker of one of M. Ellena’s best known perfumes, Terre D’Hermes. Turns out she continues to show respect for the Hermes aesthetic refined by M. Ellena while continuing to re-define it. The new Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver is a great example of how she does this.

Terre D’Hermes was groundbreaking in 2006 because M. Ellena relied on one synthetic ingredient, Iso E-Super, in overdose. The formula was 55% Iso E Super. Because of the size of the molecule there are people who can’t smell it. For those people if you ask them what they do smell they will say vetiver. That’s because in the non-Iso E-Super 45% Terre D’Hermes is a grapefruit and vetiver prominent fragrance. That is where Mme Nagel begins.

Christine Nagel

I don’t have access to all the synthetic vetiver ingredients but for Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver it seems like Mme Nagel has decided to allow what I believe is a vetiveryl acetate analog to take up some of the Iso E Super percentage. The reason I think this is there is a saltiness to the vetiver that I’ve only experienced in synthetic versions I’ve smelled. It is a fantastic effect by itself. Layered onto the core of Terre D’Hermes it forms a summery bright fragrance.

The opening is the classic bitter grapefruit and pepper. For Terre D’Hemes Eau intense Vetiver, Mme Nagel switches out the black pepper of the original for the more versatile Szechuan pepper. I like this top accord much better than the original. I have really come around on this complex ingredient. It carries lots of nuance which allows for Mme Nagel to find just the right version to use. What comes through is more herbal quality pepper which captures a bit of the sulfurous grace notes in the grapefruit. It has an almost minty freshness which sets the stage for the synthetic vetiver. This is a salty vetiver with a hint of smoke. Mme Nagel uses it to pick up on the green zestiness of the grapefruit and the herbal quality of the Szechuan pepper. It comes together in an expansive vetiver dominant accord that is compelling. Then the Iso E Super arrives with its scent of desiccated pencil shavings. This is still here in high concentration, but I will bet it is under 25% this time.

Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver is a recognizable flanker of the original. It is also a recognizable change from the original as Mme Nagel chooses to amplify some different qualities. The vetiver she uses makes it seem like we are near the coast without tripping over into full on aquatic. By putting vetiver on top, she has created a worthy successor to one of the best masculine perfumes of this century.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hermes Eau de Citron Noir- Cologne, Very Dry Please

There are things in life I like dry. My martinis are one of them. What that means is I want only a drop or two of vermouth in my chilled gin. That gives a more astringent effect as I sip my drink. There are many perfumes which also benefit from that same dry style. Foremost among them would be cologne. One of the more interesting explorations of cologne comes from the Hermes “Eau” collection. It has always provided the perfumer an opportunity to interpret this classical perfume architecture as a post-modern version. The latest release fits right in; Eau de Citron Noir.

Loomi a.k.a Black Lemon a.k.a. Citron Noir

When I saw the “noir” in the name I was wondering what might be going on. I then looked up “citron noir” and was introduced to the Persian cooking ingredient “loomi”. It is formed by drying limes after boiling them in salt water. They look like charred unappetizing black globes. As this material transferred from the Middle East to the Western world loomi became lemon and the color was obvious. So black lemon is “citron noir”.

Christine Nagel

Perfumer Christine Nagel follows up her first cologne for Hermes, Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate, with something different as she embraces the citrus origins of cologne with modern eyes. To recreate loomi as a perfume she blends multiple citrus ingredients before steeping them in black tea. It forms a spectacularly arid accord just like the material itself.

Mme Nagel uses lime as part of her citrus mélange, in a nod to reality, but here the black lemon accord is really made up of pieces of lemon-like ingredients: Lemon, lemon blossom, and Buddha’s Hand citron. It forms a swirly tart accord with almost no respite from that until she boils it in black tea. I don’t know what tea ingredient she uses but the effect is that of a smoky style akin to Lapsang Souchong. The tea accord also dries everything out. It wasn’t particularly juicy prior to this but now it is like a desert instead of a dessert. The slight smokiness is reinforced by the base note of cabrueva wood which provides a very light woody finish.

Eau de Citron Noir has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Eau de Citron Noir is another excellent entry into the Hermes “Eau” collection. Because I’ve been wearing it in these early days on unseasonably cold days there were times it never felt like it opened up as fully as it might a month or so from now. Even on these cooler days the skirl of a thin tendril of smoke through the very dry citrus was still enjoyable. I am looking forward to trying Eau de Citron Noir while sipping the drink I discovered looking it up for this article, iced loomi, later in the summer.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hermes Hermessence Cardamusc & Musc Pallida- Nagel Makes It Her Own

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When someone is tasked with having to follow a highly respected predecessor they know there will be comparisons. One way to approach this is to make significant changes making the enterprise your own. Another option is to understand what made the previous occupant successful and find a way to evolve that. It is the latter which has been occurring at Hermes as Christine Nagel has taken over from Jean-Claude Ellena as in-house perfumer. She has worked her way through most of the collections adding her imprint upon them. One of the few left is also one of the most important, the Hermessence collection. She has now opened the Nagel era of Hermessences with the release of three eau de toilettes and two ‘essence de parfums”.

I reviewed the three EdTs; Agar Ebene, Cedre Sambac, and Myrrhe Eglantine yesterday. Those are the slow evolution which has been happening as Mme Nagel provides her artistic perspective on that style. What has captured my attention more fully in this new set of Hermessences are the two “essence de parfums”; Cardamusc and Musc Pallida. These are significantly different from what has come before. Oil-based formulations which give an entirely different textural feel. They still hew to the minimal ingredient concept with which this collection was founded. What really changes is we leave the ethereal behind for shimmering depths.

Christine Nagel

Cardamusc is what the name portends cardamom combined with not one musk but a few. Mme Nagel uses cardamom in overdose. This has to be the single loudest ingredient in any Hermessence, ever. As is typical when a high-quality ingredient is used in overdose there are unexpected nuances not usually noticed. Cardamom at typical concentration adds a woody-tinged citrus effect. Cardamom in Cardamusc provides a multi-faceted single ingredient accord. The lemony citrus effect is enhanced as is the woody underpinning. What also becomes more evident is a set of nuanced green facets which hide underneath. There is a mint-like aspect, a leafy herbal one, and a slightly grassy vein. This is cardamom like I have never experienced previously and since it is one of my favorite notes I was hypnotized. It gets better as tendrils of a warming musk accord start to intersperse itself throughout. The cardamom is never cool as it can be in other perfumes. It starts warm but the musks provide a heat mirage style effect. I felt like this rose off my skin in waves.

Musc Pallida is also what is given in the name, iris and again not one musk but a suite of them. As with Cardamusc the iris is what comes first but this is not at high concentration. It is an iris effect seen in better perfume versions. I presume Mme Nagel is using an orris butter of some kind because it has that nuanced feel of the better ones I’ve encountered. What it means for Musc Pallida is Mme Nagel uses a set of musks which cover the entire octave of musk. Early on it is a white musk which makes the powdery nature of iris expand on the transparent bubble it provides. A mid-weight musk captures and enhances the violet-like floral quality. A slightly earthy-animalic musk teases out the rhizomal rootiness. Together as it was in Cardamusc it makes up this shimmery style which also waxes and wanes on my skin. It is a lovely combination of ingredients.

It is with these “essence de parfum” Hermessences where Mme Nagel makes this collection her own. Both are like nothing else in it. Also it is early but I can not get enough of Cardamusc. Right now, it is close to all that I want to wear. If you feel about iris the way I do about cardamom I believe Musc Pallida has the same quality to entrance you. If you’ve stayed away from the Hermessences because they seemed too light or ethereal you might want to see if Mme Nagel’s “essence de parfums” provide a more satisfying experience. With the release of both Mme Nagel has completed the process of making the fragrance side of Hermes her own.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples I received with purchase from Hermes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hermes Hermessence Agar Ebene, Cedre Sambac, & Myrrhe Eglantine- Nagel Steps In

Much to their credit the changeover from Jean-Claude Ellena to Christine Nagel as in-house perfumer at Hermes has been a gradual effort. Mme Nagel has been adding new releases to the existing Hermes fragrance collections. Except for one. Perhaps the most important one, the Hermessence collection.

Begun in 2004 by M. Ellena it is the private collection which all designer brands have. It also consisted of the most diverse display of his minimalist aesthetic. The individual perfumes were frequently described as haiku. One of the reasons I was enthusiastic over Mme Nagel’s appointment as M. Ellena’s successor was she had done a version of Hermessence-like perfumes when she was at Jo Malone; 2010’s Cologne Intense Collection. In the press release for that collection she said, “I chose to take potentially opposing ingredients of very high quality to create unexpected yet harmonious fragrances”. Remove the “potentially opposing” out of that sentence and it is a description of the Hermessence aesthetic.

M. Ellena’s last Hermessence was 2016’s Muguet Porcelaine. I was waiting for Mme Nagel to begin her Hermessence collection. In what I think is another smart move Mme Nagel opens the new era of Hermessence with a set of five releases; three are the same eau de toilette concentrations as the previous releases with two additional released in “essence de parfum” concentration. I am going to review all five over the next two days. I’ll start with the three eau de toilette releases today and continue with the “essence de parfum” releases tomorrow.

Christine Nagel

Agar Ebene has had a lot of fuss made about it as being the first Hermes perfume to feature oud. After wearing it I’m not sure that line has truly been crossed. The press release makes a big deal that this is “agarwood” the uninfected tree which becomes oud. Which is sort of the small print to keep the oud pledge still in place. All of that should tell you the star of Agar Ebene is not the agarwood but the other ingredient, fir balsam. Mme Nagel uses a rich version around which, I believe, she wraps a precisely balanced oud accord. It allows for only a touch of the agarwood to “infect” the balsam. There are moments when it smells like the beginning of a leather accord. It ends up making this, unexpectedly, a comfort scent. If you’re looking for a Hermes oud this isn’t the one.

Cedre Sambac is the one which calls back to that desire to take “potentially opposing” ingredients looking for the harmony. Mme Nagel takes a strong cedar and finds that the indolic jasmine sambac doesn’t clash. Cedar is the most pedestrian of perfume ingredients. By taking a fully indolic jasmine and allowing it to grow up the trunk of that cedar. The skanky effect of the prototypical white flower snaking around the slightly green woodiness of the cedar was compelling each day I wore it. It is my early favorite of these three.

Myrrhe Eglantine is a spring rose and myrrh duet. It is my least favorite of the three eau de toilette versions. Some of that is probably because the rose is a slightly spicier take on the typical debutante rose rampant in spring rose releases. The myrrh is a whisper underneath the rose which rises in intensity the longer it was on my skin. I suspect this will be the best-seller among the new collection because it is the easiest to wear.

The three eau de toilette releases are Hermessences but they are recognizably Nagel Hermessences. Which I am happy to see. For where Mme Nagel is really making her mark on the Hermessence collection come back tomorrow for my reviews of the two “essence de parfum” releases.

Disclosure: this review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Thierry Mugler B*Men- Too Normal

Thierry Mugler is one of the most successful mainstream perfume brands ever. Starting in 1992 with the release of their first perfume, Angel, they invented the gourmand style of perfume. I looked back over my master list of all that I own and within the mainstream sector there is nothing that comes close to the number of Thierry Mugler bottles. I would say that the creative team at Thierry Mugler seems to have cracked the code on how to market challenging niche-type fragrances to the masses. Despite all that success when you are working with that mindset there are going to be times you don’t make the connection to the mass market. It took twelve years for the first miss to happen, B*Men.

As is obvious from the name B*Men is the sequel to A*Men. What is less obvious is this wasn’t meant to be alphabetical per se. Instead Thierry Mugler is a big comic book fan and these were meant to be the beginning of a team of perfume superheroes. The ad above from the release in 2004 gives you an idea of what the superhero looks like. The third member of the team would come along in 2007; Ice*Men.

Jacques Huclier

B*Men was composed by a team of A*Men perfumer Jacques Huclier assisted by Christine Nagel. A*Men had been the masculine gourmand partner to Angel. B*Men was going to go in a more traditionally masculine direction building around citrus, spices, and woods. Which might be the beginning of why this didn’t succeed. The first four releases; Angel, A*Men, Innocent, and Mugler Cologne would never carry the adjective traditional. B*Men seemed to want to see if classic fragrance making with only slight Mugler tweaks could still appeal.

Christine Nagel

B*Men starts on a duet of tangerine and rhubarb. The rhubarb is used as a vegetal grapefruit surrogate. It adds green and tart to the sweeter tangerine forming a soft citrus top accord. The heart is a sturdy redwood which is surrounded by cardamom and nutmeg. The base veers away from any hint of gourmand as amber replaces the signature base accord of A*Men. That makes B*Men much less of a powerhouse than A*Men is.

B*Men has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Everything about B*Men, except for the rhubarb, is traditional masculine tropes. I think it is one of the better versions of this style of perfume. When I’m in the mood for this B*Men is one I consider. The rest of the world gave a collective shrug of the shoulders. The most consistent criticism was it wasn’t “as good as A*Men”; which shouldn’t be a disqualifier. I think it more likely a perfume brand which had conditioned its consumer for something different lost them with something so similar to other perfumes. It makes it one of the more interesting denizens of the Dead Letter Office. Sent there for being too normal.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Twilly D’Hermes- A Thrilling Frill

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I have been very pleased with the direction that Christine Nagel has been taking as she begins her tenure as in-house perfumer at Hermes. The earlier release of Eau des Merveilles Bleue this year has shown Mme Nagel imparting her sensibility on the brand as she diverges from the previous style of Jean-Claude Ellena. Through her first set of releases it appears she will retain the minimalistic aesthetic that has become synonymous with Hermes fragrances; refined over M. Ellena’s time as in-house perfumer. With the latest release, Twilly D’Hermes, it also appears she is going somewhere different as she has designed something unabashedly fun but which manages to retain enough style to not be dismissed as a trifle.

Hermes Twilly scarf on a Hermes Birkin bag

The name Twilly D’Hermes refers to the narrow Twilly scarves sold by Hermes. Those Twillys have been used to wrap the handles of Birkin bags. They have also been tied into bracelets, hair ties and other fashionable accessories. It is the versatile Hermes scarf that lends itself to being interpreted in lighthearted ways. That sense of fun is one of the things Mme Nagel is trying to capture. The other is she states this is a perfume for a younger person; a young girl. I can almost see a subliminal label of “My first grown-up perfume” underpinning all of this.

7 Ways to wear a Twilly

As I was wearing Twilly D’Hermes I thought about what that would mean if you were aiming to introduce a young girl to perfume. You would keep it on the floral side you might add a fruity partner and finish with a light woody note. This is meant to be an enticement to add perfume to your day to a young woman who hasn’t done that.

As I wore it I also reflected on whether it was so facile that it wasn’t enough to hold my interest as I am very much not the target audience. What I want is a solid floral keynote paired with some interesting companions. I never found it so slight that I didn’t enjoy wearing it.

Christine Nagel

Twilly D’Hermes has three listed notes ginger, tuberose, and sandalwood. When I saw tuberose on that list I thought that is just going to be too intense. What I was greeted with when I applied Twilly D’Hermes is a fresh slightly buttery version of tuberose which has only a tiny amount of the more confrontational indoles. It is that choice which exemplifies how smart Mme Nagel is. If you scrub the indoles out completely it becomes insipid. Give the indoles too much play and the young girls will shove it away as smelling like old ladies. The choice here is to keep them here but they are like the purr of a contented kitten coming from within the soft floral moments. The tuberose is so light I expect many are going to think orange blossom is the central floral note. As I wore it there were moments when I thought the same. The ginger used here is different from how it is usually presented. Most of the time it adds a kinetic presence lifting the notes underneath it. Mme Nagel doesn’t need any lift what she needs is an atypical fruity note which is what the ginger provides it reminds me a bit of the smell of ginger ale. The base is a sandalwood where the sweeter creamy aspects are amplified and dovetail with the creamy nature of the tuberose. It is another intelligent choice.

Twilly D’Hermes has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I can’t really speak to whether this is going to be appealing to young women. I know I will be watching with interest and I suspect it has a chance to do well with the desired demographic. There doesn’t seem to be anything which should be off-putting to them. From my perspective wearing this during the summertime was ideal. It was a light tuberose floral that wasn’t too strong. The ginger and sandalwood provided pleasant accompaniment to the tuberose. I found it to be the fragrance equivalent of a Twilly scarf; not as rich as a full Hermes scarf but a fun versatile thrilling frill.

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

Mark Behnke

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