The 2017 Midterm Review

We’ve reached the midway point of 2017 which causes me to pause and take stock of what the year has been like in fragrance so far. In very general terms I think it has been the best year at this point since I started Colognoisseur in 2014. Here are some more specific thoughts.

Many of the leaders of artistic perfumery have stepped up in 2017. Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle Superstitious is an example as perfumer Dominique Ropion working with the other two names on the bottle created a hazy memory of vintage perfume. Christine Nagel composed Hermes Eau des Meveilles Bleue a brilliant interpretation of the aquatic genre. Clara Molloy and Alienor Massenet celebrated ten years of working together with Eau de Memo; it turns into a celebration of what’s right in this sector.

The independent perfumers have continued to thrive. In the independent sector, very individual statements have found an audience. Bruno Fazzolari Feu Secret, Vero Profumo Naja, Imaginary Authors Saint Julep, and Tauer L’Eau. Plus, I have another four I could have added but I haven’t reviewed them yet. My enthusiasm when I do will give them away. There is a bounty of creativity thriving on the outskirts of town.

Standing out on their own. Two perfumers I admire struck out on their own establishing their own brands. Michel Almairac created Parle Moi de Parfum. Jean-Michel Duriez has put his name on the label and opened a boutique in Paris. Both show each perfumer allowing their creativity unfettered freedom to some great results.

-Getting better and better. I look to see if young brands can continue the momentum they begin with. The two Vilhelm Parfumerie releases; Do Not Disturb and Harlem Bloom, have shown this brand is creating a deeply satisfying collection. Masque Milano is also doing that. Their latest release Times Square shows creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are unafraid to take risks. In the case of Times Square, it succeeds. Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes keeps trusting his instincts while working with some of the best indie perfumers. He and Shelley Waddington got 2017 off to a flying start with Civet.

-Mass-market has been good but not great. I have found much to like at the mall in the first half of this year. Much more than last year. My problem is I think I’m going to have to remind myself about these perfumes a year from now. I think they are trying to take tiny steps towards something new. It might even be the right choice for this sector of fragrance buyer, the exception is Cartier Baiser Fou. Mathilde Laurent’s evocation of fruit flavored lip gloss; that I’m going to remember.

The Teacher’s Pets are Rodrigo and Luca. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has always been one of my favorite perfumers. For 2017 he has returned to his roots in Mexico where he produced two collections of exceptional perfume. For Arquiste Esencia De El Palacio in conjunction with Carlos Huber they created a luxurious look at the country of their birth. Sr. Flores-Roux then collaborated with Veronica Alejandra Pena on a new line based in Mexico City; Xinu. These were perfumes which allowed him to indulge an indie sensibility. It all came together in Monstera a crunchy green gem of a fragrance. That leaves out the three Black Collection perfumes he did for Carner Barcelona; and those should not be left out.

Luca Maffei is one of the many reasons for the Renaissance of Italian Perfumery. In 2017, it seems like he is trying to prove it all on his own. He has been behind eleven releases by seven different brands. Taken together they show his exceptional versatility. The one which really shows this off is the work he did for Fath’s Essentials. Working with creative director Rania Naim he took all his Italian inspiration and transformed it into a characteristic French aesthetic. Nowhere is this more evident than in Lilas Exquis.

I am glad I still have six months’ time to find some daylight between these two for my Perfumer of the Year. Right now I’d have to declare it a tie.

My overall grade for Perfume 2017 at the midterm is a solid B+ there is much more to be admired than to make me slap my forehead. I am looking forward to the rest of the term to finalize this grade, hopefully upward.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fath’s Essentials Lilas Exquis- Lilac Haze

I have mentioned this in previous reviews of heritage brands. They can’t just stick to reformulations of the past. At some point, they must apply the brand aesthetic to the present day. It is daunting when the reformulations have met with praise. Moving to the new holds pitfalls of a different kind. One brand which arrived a year ago has successfully negotiated the obstacles, Fath’s Essentials.

Creative director Rania Naim used perfumer Cecile Zarokian to reformulate Green Water and simultaneously release three new ones. This was a good collection overall and I had hope the brand could continue in this direction. Mme Naim wanted an equal set of fragrances which trended more feminine which you should read as more floral. She turned to another of the younger star perfumers, Luca Maffei, to achieve her vision.

Rania Naim (l.) and Luca Maffei

All four of the new perfumes are quite good and I will review all of them over the following weeks. The one which grabbed me from the first moment I tried it was Lilas Exquis. One of the more interesting aspects of the four new releases is all of them are deeply colored liquids. Lilas Exquis is said to represent Sig. Maffei’s favorite color and flower; lilac. I too am partial to the color and the bloom which piqued my interest how Sig. Maffei would approach Lilas Exquis. What he chooses to do is form a typical late spring milieu after a rain shower. He takes all the components of that and floats it on top of a sturdy base of musk and woods.

Lilas Exquis opens with a fascinating transparent fruity floral accord of hyacinth and blueberry. When hyacinth is kept at a lower concentration it imparts a watery effect along with its floral lift. The blueberry is almost like having it growing in the same flower bed as the lilac. Because the lilac accord is what comes next. Sig. Maffei coalesces it around a nucleus of violet. Wrapped tightly to it are lily, magnolia, and angelica. It forms a lilac accord as it comes in my window after a spring rain. This floats like a lilac tinted cloud. Tethering it to the ground is the base combination of Timbersilk and Ambrox as they keep the cloud from drifting away. As time moves on the woods become progressively muskier as ambrette seeds and other musks give some development from woods to animalic over the final hours.

Lilas Exquis has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Lilas Exquis is my favorite of these new Fath’s Essentials because of the transparency with which Sig. Maffei manages here. Lilac has always been something which comes over my window on the wind expanding to naturally perfume my office. Lilas Exquis also has that expansiveness which is what draws me to it. I have already had the opportunity to be wearing Lilas Exquis after the rain has activated the lilacs outside my office window. Lilas Exquis turned that evening into the most beautiful lilac haze.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Fath’s Essentials.

Mark Behnke