Colognoisseur 2015 Year-End Review Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, & Brand of the Year

In a year when I smelled almost 700 new perfumes it is easy to focus on some of the problems which affect the perfume industry. What is nice about this time of year is it allows me to focus on what is outstanding within perfumery. These next four winners are what keep me coming back for more.

Iris Cendre bottle

Perfume of the Year: Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre– There is one thing about finding a great perfume for the first time at one of the big expos; it stands out head and shoulders above all that surround it. When I arrived at this fall’s Pitti Fragranze in Florence my very first stop was to see Australian born milliner Naomi Goodsir and her partner in perfume Renaud Coutaudier. I look forward to connecting with this brand because these two have an uncompromising attention to detail in each of their releases. In three years they have only released four perfumes. Every single one of them is among the best for their particular year. I knew there was going to be a transcendent entry sooner than later. On that September day in Florence Iris Cendre turned out to be that fragrance.

For Iris Cendre Mme Goodsir and M. Coutaudier returned to the perfumer they worked with on their first two releases, Julien Rasquinet. Together they created a shimmering green iris which had a sly callback to their earlier collaboration Bois D’Ascese in the base. Iris Cendre is a success on every level I can name. Choosing a Perfume of the Year has never been easier.

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Perfumer of the Year: Christophe Laudamiel– This category was the toughest it has ever been for me. There was so much laudable work by many perfumers this year I ended up looking for intangibles to elevate my eventual choice, Christophe Laudamiel. The perfume reasons were the three 2015 releases he composed; Raymond Matts Pashay, Raymond Matts Tulile, and Strangelove NYC meltmyheart. I mentioned in my overview yesterday that there were more unabashedly synthetic perfumes released this year. In the past I have used M. Laudamiel’s work for brands like Humiecki & Graef or Nest as what can be accomplished with a primarily synthetic palette. The three perfumes he worked on for 2015 are even better examples especially the Raymond Matts Pashay. Strangelove NYC meltmyheart shows how he can take a perfectly executed central accord of chocolate, oud, and orris accompanied by a set of synthetics which impart a transparency to create something supernatural.

The intangible that lifted him over the others listed below is his tireless work for The Academy of Perfumery & Aromatics. In that capacity he developed a fantastic children’s introductory set to fragrance. By using different ingredients and tying them to their geographic location and their smells it is an ingenious way of introducing the concept of scent, in an educational way, to the next generation.

A great year of perfume combined with an important ambassadorial role makes Christophe Laudamiel my Perfumer of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Mandy Aftel, Cristiano Canali, Jean-Claude Ellena, Bruno Fazzolari, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Pierre Negrin, and Geza Schoen.

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Creative Director of the Year: Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio– Of the many things I say over and over it is how disappointed I am when a brand plays it safe. While I press for a brand to take risks their bottom line is at stake to please my desire. Any Creative Director who takes too many risks will probably not succeed. My choice for Creative Director of the Year is Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio who fearlessly released two very different perfumes in 2015, Panorama and Selfie.

Mme Verleure has always been interested in pushing the envelope as a Creative Director and that started with her work on the Kenzo Jungle collection from 1996-1998 which were not hewing to current trends at that time. When she started Olfactive Studio in 2011 she still made memorable riffs on recognizable templates but the early releases were about building an audience. In 2015 she challenged that audience with the fierce greenness of Panorama including a wasabi accord. Followed up by Selfie which took a fractured top accord of contrasting notes and coalesced it around a maple syrup heart. It is a fascinating bit of olfactory architecture I enjoy every time I wear it. These are perfumes which invite scrutiny and that is something I can only say about the very best releases in a year.

For her sense of adventure, I name Celine Verleure my Creative Director of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Karl Bradl (Aedes de Venustas and Nomenclature), Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel (Atelier Cologne), Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard (Jul et Mad), Christopher Chong (Amouage), and Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena (Eau D’Italie, ALTAIA).

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Brand of the Year: Atelier Cologne– Atelier Cologne has been on an ever expanding trajectory since their founding in 2010. This year represented their most ambitious to date as they released eight new fragrances and an extrait version of one of the bestsellers. Owners and Creative Directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel have always impressed me with their clear vision for their brand. By releasing a four fragrance Collection Azur at the beginning of the year meant to be an introduction to the world of Cologne Absolue which was released to various Sephora for that reason. It was followed by four releases spread out through the year that continued the evolution of this style of perfume. Saphir Oud, Pomelo Paradis, Jasmine Angelique, and Musc Imperial displayed the versatility that can be elicited from this concept.

Atelier Cologne is also the genial ambassador to niche for many who don’t live in large cities. I have lost count how many times I have told those who live in these areas to go to their local Sephora and try the Atelier Cologne that are there. I almost invariably get a return e-mail relating to me how they bought one after smelling the difference. I always talk about wanting niche brands to reach out to consumers beyond the big cities. Atelier Cologne has done this with great success.

For those reasons Atelier Cologne is my Brand of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Aftelier Perfumes, DSH Perfumes, Hermes, Jo Malone, and Olfactive Studio.

Part 1 was my broad overview of the year.

Part 3 tomorrow I will reveal my top 25 new perfumes of 2015.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Strangelove NYC meltmyheart- Beauty Beheld

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is a truism. In the Early 1990’s I beheld supermodel Helena Christensen when she was at the height of her fame. In a room full of other professional models it was apparent to me why super was attached to her. She carried a special quality which ran from the top of her head to her toes. When having any discussion on beauty she is one of my prime examples. I have always followed her career. Last year she stepped into the niche perfumery world as the creative director on Strangelove NYC (nee ERH1012) deadofnight. It has been eighteen months since that release and the second perfume has recently arrived Strangelove NYC meltmyheart.

 

Helena Christensen

Helena Christensen

Ms. Christensen worked with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel who also was responsible for deadofnight. Ms. Christensen says she wanted meltmyheart to be “tender and poetic”. M. Laudamiel has taken some of the more powerhouse notes in the perfumer’s palette and made them live up to that description. When I tell you that the heart of meltmyheart is dark chocolate, oud, and orris I suspect tender and poetic does not rise to the top of the adjectives you might expect to use for that mixture. If there is one thing I have learned while following M. Laudamiel over the years is he is one of the few who can make the most obstreperous notes behave like they never deserved that reputation. For meltmyheart he has achieved that as he does make those notes tender and poetic as the core of this perfume.

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Christophe Laudamiel

M. Laudamiel uses a zingy opening of ginger and bergamot. If meltmyheart is all about falling in love this is the frisson of meeting someone special for the first time. Nutmeg provides the transition into the heart. The chocolate comes out first as it picks up the sweetness of the nutmeg. The oud comes next and I am struck once again by what a perfect partner chocolate is for oud. It doesn’t get used as much as I would like even though in meltmyheart it is an excellent choice. For a short while I begin to wonder where the orris is. As the chocolate and oud have my attention. The orris is there but it takes a little time to find its position as it catches some of the bitter components of the chocolate and powders over some of the more intense facets of oud. What the orris does is provide the harmonic to allow the best qualities of the chocolate and oud to predominate. The skill of M. Laudamiel to pull this off and to keep it almost transparent in its effect is fabulous. When I wore meltmyheart I expected this phase to just expand and evolve into something overpowering. It never does. Instead it is a relationship of equals which has an unusual fragility I never expected. Many hours later a bit of smoky sage absolute winds its way through the orris/oud/chocolate making it seem like it is all melting away in a cloud of smoke.

Meltmyheart is a perfume oil and has 24-hour longevity with no appreciable sillage.

Ms. Christensen and M. Laudamiel have made a perfume around a perfectly executed central accord. I spent an entire weekend wearing this. Like Ms. Chritensen when I saw her back in the 1990’s meltmyheart is a perfume of beauty to behold.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Strangelove NYC

Mark Behnke

Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2015 Wrap-Up- Karens in the Sky with Diamonds

To make it through the year with all of my enthusiasm intact I need spaced out booster shots of time with other people who love perfume as much as I do. My end of spring burst comes courtesy of Sniffapalooza Spring Fling every May. Once again the best smelling group of olfactory glitterati convened in New York City for a weekend of perfumed experiences. This year’s edition was loaded with some of the biggest names in perfumery and some really special new releases just for this event.

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Roja Dove

It always starts early on Saturday morning in the café at Bergdorf Goodman’s. I was especially pleased this year to have the opportunity to introduce John Molloy of Memo Paris who after four years was finally showing his excellent line of perfumes to an American audience. For me there were two other releases which caught my attention at breakfast. The new Brioni creatively directed by Raymond Matts and composed by Frank Voelkl is a beautifully done masculine perfume. It is every bit the singular fragrance as a Brioni suit is. Roja Dove finished the morning program. My favorite story he tells is of this goodnight kiss his mother gave him which set him on the path to being Roja Dove. He has captured that moment in a perfume called A Goodnight Kiss. As he finished the story about the perfume there wasn’t a dry eye in the place including Mr. Dove’s.

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Takasago Presentation boards for lunch talk

After two hours of power shopping the Bergdorf’s Beauty Level we all headed to lunch. I am used to being the speaker on Sunday but this year I was also asked to introduce Colognoisseur to the Saturday crowd, too. The highlight of the lunch were the presentations from Kelly Jones of Takasago and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. Mr. Dove had passed out strips of the raw materials he uses in his perfume at breakfast. Ms. Jones who was accompanied by Kent Lombard took us through the citrus raw materials from the Takasago orchard in Florida. Christophe Laudamiel was promoting the Academy of Perfumery & Aromatics. To that end he shared a sniff of vintage L’Air du Temps with the crowd. I have become more interested in both the history and the building blocks of perfume. These lunch presentations fed my appetite for that.

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Robbie Wilson of Orlov Paris (l.) and Karen Dubin

The final event of Day One was the premier of the Orlov Paris line of five perfumes complete with caviar and champagne at Black Label Wine Merchants. Robbie Wilson introduced the line in a wonderfully opulent setting which showed off the diamond inspired perfumes like the jewels that they are.

Day Two opened at the Birchbox store downtown with a presentation from Harvey Prince on their line of fragrances and ancillary products. Afterward we wandered on Elizabeth St at Le Labo and Atelier Cologne.

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Mark Crames and Miriam Sangster presenting Tomboy

We headed for lunch and a very special line-up. Usually when I emcee the Sunday lunch it is all about new perfumers and their emerging brands. Not this year, I was handed an all-star lineup. Sue Phillips of Scentarium introduced her fragrance kits so you can have the custom perfume making experience Ms. Phillips provides at her Scentarium space in your own home. I had never met Mark Crames of Demeter prior to Sunday and he along with artist Miriam Sangster presented their combined visual and scented installation called Tomboy. Ms. Sangster challenged Mr. Crames to capture her Tomboy which was inspired by a clip from the cartoon Powerpuff Girls. Next up was Irina Adam of Phoenix Botanicals as she presented her latest release Ella. She also shared some vintage raw materials she had obtained with the audience. As they were passed around I was sitting with the next speaker Christophe Laudamiel and we were intrigued at the quality of these very old ingredients. M. Laudamiel again promoted the Academy and tried in vain to share an even more vintage version of L’Air du Temps than he had the day before.

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Jacinta Bunt aqnd Michael Edwards (r.)

The final speaker of the day on Sunday was Michael Edwards of Fragrances of the World. I had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with him. He spoke about how his reference book came to be and how it has grown over the past 31 years. I asked him if the word Niche was still relevant. In his guide he has already decided it doesn’t and has now come up with four categories which cover what we called Niche previously. At the prodding of Karen Dubin he gave some personal non-perfume details. He likes Italian food, attending art exhibitions, and working through his Netflix queue. It is always a pleasure to hear Mr. Edwards speak and it was the perfect way to end the 2015 version of Spring Fling.

As always thanks to the Karens for allowing me to participate in this year’s events. I am already looking forward to October and Fall Ball.

Mark Behnke

All photos by Karen Adams from the Sniffapalooza website.

New Perfume Reviews Raymond Matts Maiaday & Pashay- Chasing Dreams

As I continue my reviews of the new Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection I turn to a pair which are complete opposites. One celebrates all of the promise of a spring day. The other is the smell of attraction from afar traveling the paths of imagination wherein the feeling is returned. Maiaday and Pashay are those perfumes.

Annie-Buzantian

Annie Buzantian

There are instructions for how to pronounce the names in the press materials. Maiaday is supposed to be pronounced (My*a*day). Ever since wearing it I’ve been calling it May*a*day because it embodies that day in May when we acknowledge the return of green and growing things. Perfumer Annie Buzantian composes a perfume which captures that pent-up energy of the coming of spring after the long winter. Ms. Buzantian keeps it all very supple and soft as a sunny floral green haze enveloped me when I wore Maiaday. Ms. Buzantian opens with her greenery floating on a pond which she marries to a citrus grouping of notes. It adds that zing to the opening as it amplifies and complements the green accord. Maiaday moves into a floral heart with that May Day flower, muguet, at the center. Ms. Buzantian brackets it with the expected, in violet leaves, picking up the greener facets of muguet. The unexpected is saffron which adds a bit of outre´ charm. Saffron works here because it is such a softly assertive spicy note. Something a little more aggressive would have thrown off the vibe Ms. Buzantian is building. This carries through into the base as she uses a number of synthetic woods to form a translucent woody accord to evoke the trees waking up on May Day. As much as I’ve been enjoying wearing Maiaday on these winter days I am really looking forward to wearing it on a mid-summer’s day. Maiaday has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

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Christophe Laudamiel (Photo: Marcus Gaab for NY TImes)

The inspiration for Pashay came from a chance encounter on a Fifth Avenue bus Mr. Matts was riding. Also sharing his ride was “a beautiful black woman…with flawless skin and an exposed shoulder.” When Mr. Matts approached perfumer Christophe Laudamiel with this inspiration he also had an interesting request for a starting point for M. Laudamiel. By looking at this olive toned skin he wanted to use a Kalamata olive note as the focal point of Pashay. M. Laudamiel thought it a crazy idea but once he and Mr. Matts started working on Pashay they found there was some latitude to realize their vision while starting from such a different beginning. Pashay opens on a fruity flurry of citrus and pear. This leads to the heart where they chose seaweed and narcissus to join the Kalamata to form their desired salty skin accord. If you look at those ingredients on face value you might not see how this comes to be. By using the oily salty olive to build upon; the seaweed pulls out the hidden marine facets as well as a sense of clean sweaty skin. The narcissus takes this and uses its intense floralcy to frame and enhance the illusion. It really is the smell of a woman’s shoulder after she has worked up a sweat. This all fades into a woody base of sandalwood and guaiac wood. This is a cleaned up sandalwood synthetic stripped of the sweet facets and the guaiac wood provides a more versatile clean wood than something like cedar might have. The final stages of Pashay are the dream of that woman on the bus as it pulls away and you watch it move down the street. Pashay has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Disclosure: These reviews were based on samples I received from Raymond Matts.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Raymond Matts Jarro & Sunah- The Aura of Persistence

The new Raymond Matts perfume line calls their fragrances “aura de parfum”. The phrase does a really good job of describing some of the entries in the collection. With Jarro and Sunah the name is not only a descriptor but the perfumes themselves formed a transparent aura around me as I wore them. In an e-mail exchange with Raymond Matts he described the way he works with his perfumers, “I never brief perfumers actually! When I start a fragrance I sit with and go over sensations, emotions, experiences, textures with colors I want the fragrance to be. We then will discuss notes and will create three different accords representing top, middle and back.” Then he told me they will go through 200-300 modifications searching for just the right balance to realize the shared vision. This shows the dedication of both creative director and perfumer as trying to find that perfect balance between the synthetics and natural ingredients can be difficult and I think many other brands would have given up earlier and accept a less-than-perfect formula. Both of these show the dedication to quality and collaboration.

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Christophe Laudamiel

Jarro is signed by Christophe Laudamiel. If I asked most to describe M. Laudamiel based on his perfumes in one word I am guessing I would get a lot of variations on edgy or dark. I knew he was the perfumer behind three of the seven entries in the collection. If I was asked to pick the three he worked on blindly Jarro would not have been one because it seems too light. Mr. Matts also addressed that in his e-mail and said, “Christophe and I have been working together for many years. He is dark and I'm not so this makes for interesting collaborations.” Jarro is a burst of optimism wrapped up in green brilliance. M. Laudamiel constructs complex accords and Jarro opens with two of those. The citrus one is that bit of sunshine in a jar as there is a complement of citrus facets all shining like sunbeams. Matched to this is a green aquatic accord composed of calone and labdanum among other ingredients. This is one of those classic perfume accords but M. Laudamiel puts his spin on it by keeping it on the light side. The green deepens with muguet as the focal point in the middle part of Jarro’s development. M. Laudamiel enhances the hidden spiciness of muguet by using it in significant quantities and complementing it with other spices so it can’t be overlooked. The base is Ambrox and woods; and in keeping with the whole tone of the construction it stays lighter. Jarro has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

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Jean-Claude Delville

As Mr. Matts mentioned he has worked with M. Laudamiel for many years. I think he has probably worked with perfumer Jean-Claude Delville for a shorter period of time. One of the pieces of information that tells me this might be the case is Mr. Matts shared the number of modifications that went into refining the concepts that would eventually become Sunah; over a thousand. If I admired the stick-to-it-iveness of 200 modifications more than a thousand had to be frustrating until the right one emerges out of the pile of flawed vials. What caused all of this olfactory angst was an attempt to make a saffron focused perfume which also was soft. M. Delville opens with a contrast of tart and crisp with citrus and apple. It is a high-pitched downbeat which then rises up the scale as mimosa forms an opaque fruity floral early phase. Sunah transforms as the saffron rises to prominence in the heart. M. Delville allows the saffron to eventually exude an exoticism at the middle. M. Delville then chooses a mix of woody synthetics which are layered precisely to effect a pillow soft base for this intense saffron to lay upon. It is this which must have have occupied Mr. Matts and M. Delville during many of those one thousand modifications. To get this just right. To keep the synthetics all purring together without one rising up to be disruptive all while the saffron still exudes its influence. This effort really shows as Sunah moves from the fruity floral into this exotic end phase and it is completely fascinating to wear. Sunah has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really like both of these for the effort the perfumers put in with Mr. Matts. In both cases I think that effort shows in the finished product. Sunah especially for the effect of saffron on top of soft woods is brilliantly realized.

Discalosure: this review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Raymond Matts Tsiling and Tulile- Declaration of Intent

I am not sure when I met Raymond Matts for the first time. I am sure about the where, at a Sniffapalooza lunch during a Spring Fling or Fall Ball. He gave a talk which spoke to the room about the state of perfume at that moment in time. He boldly declared perfume blogging as irrelevant. I was just starting to write and I wondered if he was right. Here was a man with a wealth of experience from nearly thirty years in the fragrance business. I like people who take provocative stances and I listened to all he said and considered his hypothesis.

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Raymond Matts

Mr. Matts has shown the same surety whenever our paths have crossed in the years since. Late in 2014 I found out he was going to have his own brand of perfume. Like so much about Mr. Matts these perfumes are declarative statements of intent. In my initial testing I have found all seven to have distinct pleasures. I want to really give all of them a little more time than I would normally and so my reviews of the entire line are going to happen in a series over the next few weeks. For this first installment I am going to focus on Tsiling and Tulile.

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Olivier Gillotin

The names of all of the fragrances are made up words meant to convey something about them. In the press materials it is said they are meant to smell the way they sound. More than any other Tsiling lives up to this. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin was given a brief to capture a plastic flower which exudes a natural scent. This makes Tsiling a lively exercise with M. Gillotin having to strike just the right balance between the artificial and the natural. His choice is to start with the natural and allow for the artificial to provide the finish. The top notes are a mix of an aquatic accord, some green notes, and pear. The pear is most prominent and the other notes provide the more natural watery green of nature. As you move into the heart orris comes first and it is a rooty version. After M. Gillotin adds honeysuckle and what is named as rice notes the whole thing seems to plasticize in a time-lapse fashion. It just goes from natural to unnatural over the course of an hour or so. Then for the majority of the time I wore Tsiling it smells like a plastic flower scented with natural oils. Very late a bit of patchouli comes out but it is very minimal in nature. Tsiling has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

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Christophe Laudamiel

Lots of perfumes marketed to men are said to be bracing. That usually means loud and overpowering most of the time. For Tulile Mr. Matts asked perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to create a masculine perfume which was embracing, instead. It starts off with a traditional zing of citrus over some aquatic notes. This is a common trope for men’s perfume. M. Laudamiel then starts to shift the paradigm as he uses lily of the valley as the floral heart of Tulile. This is a very floral muguet which combines very well with the watery citrus. It is because the citrus sticks around that Tulile doesn’t become overtly floral. For the base notes M. Laudamiel mixes two woody aromachemicals, Polywood and Ambrox. There is an interesting effect I have found with synthetics like both of these. By themselves they often irritate me. But if they are the right two synthetics they form an accord which is very pleasant. In the case of Tulile the Polywood and Ambrox form an opaque woody accord which is surprisingly soft for something composed of synthetic components. Tulile has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I’ll be back over the next few weeks with reviews of the other five perfumes in the line.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.

Mark Behnke

That Unattainable Object of Desire: Slatkin Absinthe- The Green Fairy

When writing this series many of the perfumes I will write about are small batch rarities by our best perfumers. The subject of this one is rare because most of it was removed from circulation due to a corporate takeover. Back in 2003 the home fragrance company Slatkin & Co. wanted to branch out into fine fragrance and beauty products. The original three releases in their foray into the world of perfume were simply named Mimosa, Muguet, and Absinthe. Perfumer Christian Truc was responsible for Muguet and Christophe Laudamiel would create the remaining two. These fragrances barely had any time to find an audience because Slatkin & Co. were acquired by the parent company of Bath and Body Works in 2005. The brand was acquired because of the home fragrance products and these perfumes were just an aberration. With no place for them to go they pretty much just disappeared after less than two years on the market.

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I wish I could say I was smart enough to have discovered them back when they were released but that wouldn’t be true. I didn’t become acquainted with Slatkin Absinthe until my Editor-in-chief at CaFleureBon, Michelyn Camen, gifted me a large decant of it. What I have is one of the most treasured fragrances in my entire collection. M. Laudamiel was coming off a year when he had been part of the team behind two very recognizable fragrances, Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce and Ralph Lauren Polo Blue. The two briefs for Slatkin were his first opportunity to fly solo as a perfumer.

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Christophe Laudamiel

What he created in Absinthe is not a literal interpretation of the wormwood flavored liquor. Instead it is a night at the Moulin Rouge complete with the bohemians of the time looking for The Green Fairy to inspire them.

Absinthe opens with the anise-flavored liquor on top. M. Laudamiel squeezes a fresh lime along with the tamarine citrus base and a sprig of mint. This is an exhilarating sinus clearing opening. It is like sipping from your glass of absinthe as you look up to take in the surroundings. The smell of the rose powder of the dancing girls, the slightly urinous character of honey, the sticky green quality of blackcurrant buds all form a heady accord of carnality to go with the absinthe. The base is a woody patchouli and M. Laudamiel made some interesting choices for his woods as there is cherry tree bark, candlewood, cashmere woods, maplewood and oakmoss. This woods accord with the patchouli makes up one of the more striking woody bases of any perfume I own. It is an early sign of M. Laudamiel’s intention to use more of the ingredients of his perfumer’s organ.

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

I was already a fan of M. Laudamiel by the time I smelled Absinthe. It confirmed his incredible talents were present from his first moments as a perfumer. It is sad that the meager stock at the time of the acquisition was placed on discount shelves and that was it. Bottles show up very rarely on the auction sites. I have an alert for it and I would say on average two or three bottles will be available over the course of a year. Because it is such an oddity the prices are not worse than any new perfume you might purchase. I can say that if I was ever forced to pare down my voluminous collection to something much smaller there is no version which wouldn’t include Slatkin Absinthe.

Disclosure: This review is based on a decant which I received as a gift.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Humiecki & Graef Abîme and Nouveau-né- High Aspirations

There are perfume lines which aim for mass-market success. There are perfume lines which look for success within a narrowly defined swath of customers. There are perfume lines which create to please themselves and hope there is an audience for that. Humiecki & Graef falls into none of those categories. Creative Directors Sebastian Fischenich and Tobias Müksch in collaboration with perfumers Les Christophes (Christophe Laudamiel and Christoph Hornetz) have, since 2008, produced one of the most exceptional collections of fragrances which define the borders of olfactory art. There is no perfume line which I spend more time with really understanding the construction and delving into the emotional component which is stimulated by these fragrances. 2012’s Candour was the last new release. For 2014 we are getting a pair of new releases, Abîme and Nouveau-né, this fall. Hr. Fischenich was kind enough to give me samples at Esxence in March and over the last three months I have been wearing and examining these new fragrances and they are examples of the very best Humiecki & Graef have to offer.

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Sebastian Fischenich and Tobias Müksch

Abîme and Nouveau-né are the tenth and eleventh releases and they are being released as a duo because they represent polar opposites of la condition humaine, pain and hope. Les Christophes have made it a hallmark of their work for Humiecki & Graef to elicit an emotional response from these perfumes. For me they have succeeded every time. They never shy away from what would be considered unpleasant inspirations and instead embrace the perceived negativity and find art within.

Abîme translates to the abyss and it is meant to portray an agonizing state. This is not the state of debilitating pain, this is the emotional pain of living life fully. It is a fragrance where every pleasant facet finds a discordant counterpart. Les Christophes use a whopping overdose of narcissus absolute as the focal point of Abîme. In this concentration it provides both pleasure and a cloying unpleasant affect. Narcissus is one of my very favorite notes in perfumery and Les Christophes have challenged me to ask myself just how much I like it. Is there too much of a favorite note? The answer is it depends. There were days when I was a glutton for the narcissus and I couldn’t get enough. There were days when it felt like a friend I had outgrown and just wanted it to quit bothering me. I realized the perception had as much to do with my emotional mood. Matched with a concentration of narcissus that didn’t allow me to disengage it became an olfactory Rorschach test where the overdose of narcissus took the place of the inkblots.

The first thing that hits me when I wear Abîme is a moment of juicy blackberry which is squashed, Gallagher-like, with a sledgehammer of narcissus. It is almost as if Les Christophes are poking a little fun at fruity floral construction. This nuclear core of narcissus is then bombarded with multiple notes as juniper tries to take the place of the blackberry to get swatted aside. Some balsamic notes try to get a foothold and slide away exhausted. Labdanum actually does find some traction and it morphs the narcissus into something less floral and more intensely vegetal. Right here was my tipping point on whether it was a good day or a bad day to be wearing Abîme. If it was the former the mix of oakmoss and patchouli in the base added some needed contrast. If it was the latter they just made the whole thing irritatingly unpleasant.

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Les Christophes

Nouveau-né follows the same architectural path by using an ocean of honey as the central note. The honey is expertly tempered throughout as Nouveau-né is all of the good stuff in life, magnified. Despite the intensity of Nouveau-né I came to realize the balance of the ingredients was a very tenuous composition which seemed appropriate to evoke the fragile, yet powerful, emotion of hope.

Nouveau-né begins with the brightness of bergamot paired with basil and ginger to add some zip to the opening. Then like a golden viscous flood the honey rushes in and coats everything with a sticky matrix from which the basil and ginger still pulse. Hay Absolute helps temper the sweetness of the honey and Liatrix adds the natural coumarin it provides to also modulate the treacle. Les Christophes strike the perfect balance as Nouveau-né is the perfume equivalent of holding a jar of honey up to the sun and seeing the ball of light made opaque and diffuse.

Abîme and Nouveau-né have 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Everything that I admire about Humiecki & Graef is on display in both of these new releases. Michael Edwards has always quoted the great perfumer Guy Robert’s advice to perfumers, “A perfume must above all smell good.” While I agree with that sentiment in the main I am overjoyed that Humiecki & Graef exists to make sure that thinking is challenged. Abîme and Nouveau-né are everything I want from a perfume which makes me a willing participant in the ongoing debate of whether to “smell good” is enough.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Humiecki & Graef at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review ERH1012 DeadofNight- Spectacular Sustainability

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I love being surprised and on the second day of Sniffapalooza Spring Fling I got a surprise when I stopped at MiN New York. Mindy Yang the co-owner of the apothecary asked me what I thought of the new DeadofNight. I admitted I didn’t know what that was and she handed me a roll-on to test it out with. I rolled it on my wrist and for the next twenty-four hours I rekindled my love of oud. I also spent that time learning about the entity behind DeadofNight, ERH1012.

Helena-Christensen

Helena Christensen

ERH1012 is a collaboration of Elizabeth Gaynes the founder of Gaia One. Gaia One is a company devoted to developing sustainable plantations to supply the flavors and fragrance industries. Borneo’s Balung River Plantation is the first of the Gaia One farms. From that farm the key ingredient of DeadofNight was harvested; a sustainable oud from planted agarwood trees. The harvesting of the oud will be like harvesting grapes at a vineyard as each year’s climatic conditions will lead to variations and will make for its use in each year’s small batch an evolving enterprise all around. The creative director for ERH1012 is supermodel Helena Christensen. Her friendship with Ms. Gaynes, her 20-year fashion career, and her work as photographer for Oxfam makes her ideal to guide the creation of DeadofNight. The perfumer she would be working with is Christophe Laudamiel. M. Laudamiel is one of the elite perfumers working today and can straddle the commercial and the artistic simultaneously. This is a team dedicated to making this inaugural fragrance something special and they do. (UPDATE: In an e-mail from Ms. Gaynes she let me know that perfumer Jacques Cavallier first worked with this oud oil and created the first mods for DeadofNight. M. Laudamiel used these as his starting point and attributes this as a co-creation of both perfumers.)

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Christophe Laudamiel

First choice was to make DeadofNight a perfume oil, very concentrated, and for this fragrance it is completely appropriate as a drop at a pulse point is all you want. DeadofNight is a personal olfactory journey and only those who are allowed close will share it with you. M. Laudamiel takes this new source of oud and combines the chill of violet leaf, a mere hint of floral notes and a woody musky amber at the base. Throughout the new oud preens like a precocious child.  

DeadofNight opens with the oud displaying its wares. As this is a new source of oud this has a less prickly quality as more aged versions of oud have. The oud oil used here was distilled multiple times to end up with a very concentrated fraction and that gives it power without the rough edges. M. Laudamiel uses the green character of violet leaf to pull at the rawer woody facets of oud. Early on in its development this has a plushness to it that I have rarely experienced in an oud-centric fragrance. As many of you know rose is oud’s natural partner and usually it is used as an equal in composition containing both of these. In DeadofNight M. Laudamiel hints at that as very modest applications of rose and jasmine whisper across the face of the oud. Some of my favorite oud oils have a latent floral character and this oud also has it and by using jasmine and rose as genteel complementary notes that floralcy is allowed to bloom. This phase of DeadofNight has an almost heartbreaking fragility that lasts for hours on my skin. It feels so tenuous that at any moment it will disappear but it lingers enticing me to pull my wrist to my nose again and again. Many hours after first applying DeadofNight the creamy woodiness of sandalwood signals a languid pace of development into the base as amber and white musk mix to form a sedately beautiful coda to a full day’s olfactory pleasure.

DeadofNight has 24-hour longevity and is a skin scent with no appreciable sillage.

The combination of new source of oud and master perfumer with Ms. Chrtistensen’s innate sense of style have all combined to create a singular beauty. DeadofNight exhibits beauty from head-to-toe much like Ms. Christensen continues to do. DeadofNight is oud as only M. Laudamiel can do it which means it is among the very best oud scents you can find anywhere.

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

DeadofNight can be purchased exclusively at MiN New York or via the ERH1012 website.

Mark Behnke