Colognoisseur Holiday Buyer’s Guide 2018 Part 2- Support Your Local Perfumery

The older I get the less patience I have with the mania of holiday shopping season. Which means you won’t find me even driving by a mall this weekend. It doesn’t mean I won’t be out shopping. I prefer to support the local small businesses. Which is why my favorite day of this opening shopping weekend is Small Business Saturday.

The idea of the American Express company, in 2010, using social media and television commercials they have turned the Saturday after Black Friday into something which feels more personal. Less about doorbusters and more about opening small doors to see what is behind them.

For perfume lovers if you are fortunate enough to have a small brick and mortar perfume shop nearby this is when you should support them. They can be as diverse as the offerings from Perfumarie in New York City to American Perfumer in Louisville, Kentucky to my own local shop Arielle Shoshana in Arlington, Virginia. Each individual perfume shop is curated by the owner to reflect their community and their ability to support small brands. They are the place where our love of perfume can be expressed most openly.

Because of that diversity I am going to suggest some of the independent brands you will find in many of these stores which have had memorable releases in 2018.

The New Kid on the Block

Every year presents me with new brands which always remind me that there are still new passionate creative people who want to express that through perfume. 2018 has seen less of that although there was one which caught my nose.

Gallivant– Last year creative director Nick Steward asked us to journey through the world with our sense of smell. Amsterdam was the one which brought me to the travel agent, but it was this year’s Tokyo which had me book a trip to future destinations.

The Old Kids on the Porch

There are brands which continue to do great work year after year. They shouldn’t get lost in the rush to capture the newest trend. These are among what makes independent perfumery stand apart.

aroma M– Brooklyn-based perfumer Maria McElroy has been making perfume for years based upon the Japanese Geisha. This year’s Geisha Botan is an example of an independent perfumer who becomes better with each release.

Masque MilanoAlessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are usually pushing the envelope of independent perfumery. This year they went traditional by working with perfumer Fanny Bal on (homage to) Hemingway. It is a lush exploration of vetiver that is unforgettable.

Mona di Orio– Creative director Jeroen Oude Sogtoen has faithfully kept the fire burning on a style of perfume making exemplified by the late Mona di Orio. Working with Fredric Dalman this year’s Santal Nabataea is an homage to Mysore Sandalwood.

Neela Vermeire Creations– Creative director Neela Vermeire has worked exclusively with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour for all her perfumes. The perfumes of Indian and French influences have always impressed. The depth of the collaboration was never as evident as it was in this year’s release, Niral.

Providence Perfume Co.- Perfumer Charna Ethier is one of the treasures of the independent perfume world. 2018 has seen three outstanding releases in Vientiane, Lemon Liada, and Sedona Sweetgrass. Rarely do three perfumes show this breadth of creativity. This is on top of a collection of quiet excellence throughout.

The Strange Kids

The other great thing about independent perfumery is the ability to freely experiment. Gone are focus groups, replaced by individual vision. The perfumes here will have you reassessing what perfume is all about.

Zoologist Perfumes– The brand created by Victor Wong has been one of the great stories of the last couple of years. In 2018 there was a bold choice to strike out toward perfumes which provided more individual effect. Working with perfumer Sven Pritzkoleit, Hyrax explored what kind of perfume you can make from hyraceum. With perfumer Antonio Gardoni they asked what a prehistoric jungle smelled like just after the meteor set it on fire in Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Blackbird– Seattle-based Nicole Miller has overseen one of my favorite experimental brands; Blackbird. She is just the right kind of strange for my tastes. Nowhere was that more evident in the skanky banana that was Y06-S. although it reminded me of my organic chemistry lab. Par for the course on the odd side of the street.

DSH Perfumes– You might think adding the brand from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz to this category doesn’t fit. I chose to add her here because hers is one of those minds which can’t stop when it comes to perfume. she is the experimentalist always trying to find new ways to say perfume things. In 2018 Summer Cologne is as good an example of that as any of the rest of her excellent releases this year.

Hopefully the weather is nice enough this year for you to take a walk away from the mall and through the door of your local perfumery on Small Business Saturday.

If you missed Part 1 on the best new choices at the mall here is the link.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the brands mentioned.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Holiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide 2018 Part 1- At The Mall

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As we approach Thanksgiving in the US it is the demarcation of the beginning of the Holiday shopping season. As soon as the last bite of pie and the last dish is loaded in the dishwasher on Thanksgiving; shopping begins. It starts with overnight bargain hunting into what is known as Black Friday.

Fragrance is a popular gift. There is even a beautiful commercial for a department store about a blind husband knowing his wife by her perfume. I think buying a perfume for someone is a big risk because it is such an intimate gift. I do have a suggestion on how to do it in a more intimate way at this link.

Even so I know many will still be buying fragrance this Holiday season. For my Buyer’s Guide I do Part 1 with a list of perfume you will most likely find at any mall or department store. Tomorrow, before Small Business Saturday, Part 2 will focus on independent brands found at local brick and mortar perfume store.

The list of perfumes below is meant to give a breadth of choice to anyone looking for a specific style. Links to the full review are in the names.

Atelier Cologne Iris Rebelle– This is a transparent rooty iris instead of the usual powdery version. If you ever wanted to see the other face of iris, here it is.

Britney Spears Prerogative– Britney Spears was one of the early successes of the celebuscent wave of the last few years. Leave it to her, as the trend has diminished, to remind me that it still can be quite good. Perfumer Honorine Blanc produces a fruity gourmand perfume.

Buberry Her– Of all the transparent style of perfume I encountered in 2018 perfumer Francis Kurkdjian created a crowd-pleaser. A fruity airy bubble that you float in happily.

Cartier Carat– This is what I consider to be the best mainstream perfume of 2018. Perfumer Mathilde Laurent composes a kinetic prismatic transparent floral. It is like a constant motion machine of floral jewels.

Commodity Velvet– The entire brand is a great choice and 2018 was a great year for it. The reason they have been so good is they allow a perfumer to bring a niche aesthetic to the mall. It results in some stunning efforts. Velvet is Jerome Epinette’s rose floating on top of a pool of vanilla. Simple and gorgeous.

Gucci Bloom Nettare Di Fiore– Gucci is making a fragrant statement again. Both of this year’s flankers of Gucci Bloom were excellent but it is the spicing up of the core accord of Bloom which is what makes Nettare Di Fiore ideal for fall and winter.

Jo Malone Jasmine Sambac & Marigold– Jo Malone is another brand which had an outstanding 2018. Jasmine Sambac & Marigold was the bellwether for that. This is an unusual pairing for jasmine as the green of marigold creates a unique floral harmonic.

Nest Cocoa Woods– Is an austere dry mixture of sandalwood and sequoia coated in cocoa powder. If you enjoy woody perfume this adds a gourmand style on top of that.

Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense VetiverChristine Nagel produces her version of the classic Terre D’Hermes. Her choice is to take vetiver from the background of the original and move it out in front of the dry synthetic woods. It is a perfume which I think more of the longer I spend time with it.

I wish all my US readers a Happy Thanksgiving and let me be the first to wish all my readers a Happy Holidays. Now…..Ready……Set……Shop!

Disclosure: I received samples of all of the perfumes mentioned in this article from the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

2018 First-Half Recap

Before I plunge into the fall releases starting to show up in my mailbox I want to recap the world of perfume for the first half of 2018. Especially here in the Poodlesville HQ of Colognoisseur.

For those who have followed my writing for the over ten years I’ve been doing reviews I am sure you’ve tired of my whining about too many spring roses. Guess what? This year I got my wish. I’m not sure what caused the change but even a perfume called Miu Miu L’eau Rosee was not a rose. That one was a very nice lily perfume. I got Bvlgari Magnolia Sensuel. I got Nest Wisteria Blue. I got the neroli of Commodity Nectar. I got the crazy blackberry of Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Femme. I got Jo Malone Jasmine Sambac and Marigold. Yes, there were plenty of pretty roses, but the spring of 2018 found new perfumed ways of celebrating the season.

One of those ways was the return of the classic ambrette-iris-musk so embodied by Chanel No. 18. There were many of these, most of which I liked. There were two which stood out for taking this classic accord in a modern direction; Diptyque Fleur de Peau and A Lab on Fire Hallucinogenic Pearl. Perfumers Olivier Prescheux and Emilie Coppermann, respectively, found a way to freshen this triad up. In Mme Coppermann’s case it was by incorporating the De Laire base Iriseine; which made this one of my favorites of the first half of 2018.

Christine Nagel

Christine Nagel continued her strong showings for Hermes. If there was a last question left for her it was, “How would she make the Hermessences her own?” She released five in the spring. They were all good, but it was her move towards an “essence de parfums” oil-based formulation where she confirmed her stamp on this collection. Cardamusc is another favorite of 2018, so far.

The independents also thrilled me in the first six months of the year. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz finished her Haiku Series for DSH Perfumes with Tsukimi and Shimotsuki. Among the very best work of hers I have experienced.

Hiram Green Slowdive was a textural marvel as a tobacco accord traverses a viscous mixture of honey and others.

Sarah McCartney’s 4160 Tuesdays Freeway is So Cal car culture in search of an exotic sorbet. Sounds odd but it is fabulous.

Andy Tauer provided a contemporary version of the “golden age” in Tauer Les Annees 25.

There were three other perfumes which really caught my attention so far in 2018.

A Lab on Fire And the World is Yours by perfumer Dominique Ropion is perhaps my favorite from the brand ever. The opening bergamot, neroli, and cumin accord is spectacular.

Louis Vuitton Nouveau Monde is the leather perfume which should have Louis Vuitton on its label. I may be a bit let down by the others in this collection, but Nouveau Monde, and perfumer Jacques Cavallier, gives me the leather I wanted.

The leader at the midway point of 2018 is Neela Vermeire Creations Niral. The collaborative energy between creative director Neela Vermeire and perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has always produced excellent perfume. Niral is better than that. The iris shimmers over a subtle leather accord. I still haven’t got enough.

This covers what I was able to write about in the first six months. Just in the next couple of weeks I have some reviews coming which are also among the best of 2018.

As always, thanks for reading.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur vs. The Bachelorette’s Colognoisseur

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Now that I’ve been writing at Colognoisseur for over four years my readership has settled at a number I am happy to have. Which means starting two weeks ago I woke up to an alert on Tuesday morning telling me that daily traffic had spiked. Usually I know when something I’ve written might provoke interest but there wasn’t anything I thought could’ve done that. I stayed mystified for a week and then it happened again on Tuesday morning. This time my readers clued me in to what was going on.

I got a couple dozen e-mails asking if I had seen the contestant on ABC’s The Bachelorette who was identified as a Colognoisseur. I hadn’t but you bet I called it up on my cable box and watched. What I found was Jean-Blanc, 31, Colognoisseur displayed under a stylish young guy. To say I was curious is an understatement. Who is this other Colognoisseur? And does he deserve the title. In the run-up to last week’s first episode Glamour magazine posted a video asking questions of what a few of the men were taking with them. True to being a Colognoisseur Jean-Blanc showed off the four perfumes he was taking with him. He has some cologne cred but his choices were so typical of what guys his age wear I have to wonder in his over 250+ bottle collection if he couldn’t have made some different choices. For fun I’m going to take on the now more famous Colognoisseur in an analysis and my opinion on other choices he might have made based on things I suspect are in his collection.

As Michael Buffer would say “Let’s Get Ready to Ruuuuumble!”

Tale of the Tape

Age: Jean-Blanc 31- Mark 58 (Hipster Charm vs. Experience)

Weight: Jean-Blanc, slim athletic build- Mark: Old and fat (You aren’t seeing me on TV)

Size of collection: Jean-Blanc 250+- Mark 1000+ (Mine’s bigger)

The first fragrance Jean-Blanc chose for his time on The Bachelorette is Creed Aventus. Ever since its release it has become akin to the mythical love potion no. 9 among those who use fragrance as part of their wardrobe. I love Aventus, too. While I believe The Bachelorette probably has not encountered many guys wearing Aventus there are some alternatives this Colognoisseur thinks might have been better choices. I have to believe Jean-Blanc has some Tom Ford Private Blends and as you’ll see in the other three choices all of them tilt towards the fresh. I think something like Tobacco Vanille or Tuscan Leather would have added both variety without reducing the seduction value.

Fragrance number two is Bleu de Chanel. This is a really solid choice because it is so versatile. It can be used in all situations which Jean-Blanc is likely to find himself in on his time in the show. The only drawback is this is something I am betting The Bachelorette has smelled on a few guys. Bleu de Chanel is the best-selling men’s perfume in the US since its release. It’s like saying you love music and then put on Taylor Swift. C’mon a Colognoisseur should be able to do better. This is where the Creed should have shown up in Green Irish Tweed. Every bit as versatile and less common.

Fragrance number three Dior Homme. My favorite of his four choices going with one of the best mainstream floral masculine perfumes available. This is the one I think has the best chance to make an impression of Jean-Blanc as someone who has something more to him. Even so I still have an alternative Caron pour Un Homme. This is also another masculine floral classic trading lavender for the iris of Dior Homme.

Fragrance number four was where I felt like Jean-Blanc let me down with L’Homme de Yves Saint Laurent. It is so generic. I know any Colognoisseur like Jean-Blanc has to have some of the Thierry Mugler A-Men flankers in his wardrobe. I would think the recent A-Men Pure Tonka could have had The Bachelorette asking, “something smells good!” and Jean-Blanc smiling in response.

I am rooting for my fellow Colognoisseur to go far and win the heart and nose of The Bachelorette. If he doesn’t I at least have to thank him for sending new readers my way.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2018 Hopes and Wishes

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As always, on this last day of 2017 I look forward to some things I hope happen next year.

Who is ready for Perfumer Two-in-One?

Can I get two for one?- Last year I started out asking for Vero Kern to release something new. (She did) 2017 was a bumper crop from my favorite indie perfumers. One thing I have noticed is when they infrequently collaborate there has been some real magic. Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni on Cadavre Exquis or Sam Rader and Josh Meyer on Dasein Winter Nights are my best examples of how this works. Both of those were 2016. For 2018 I’d like to see a couple new collaborations as creative as the 2016 ones.

Mosaic by Carl and Sandra Bryant of Showcase Mosaics

A Masterpiece of Deconstruction– 2017 saw deconstruction become all the rage except I felt it mostly missed the potential. With all the isolates of the most familiar perfume ingredients available. There is a perfumer who can produce something which adds the figurative olfactory grout within the deconstructed note to create something we haven’t seen before. There has been some tiptoeing up to this, but I need a few of the resident risk takers to embrace this. As much to make deconstructed meaningful; not just a synonym for transparent and safe.

The Pied Piper of Niche?

Keep expanding niche….everywhere– I have been excited to see consumers reacting to the difference between niche and mainstream perfumes. Much of this is happening because Sephora has steadily been increasing their offerings. Paired with this they have been featuring smaller brands which maybe aren’t niche but which are different than the big brands near them on the shelf. It seemed to me just in my local malls Sephora displayed a lot of niche brands for Holiday shopping season. If the sales bear it out this could be my long hoped-for bridge to the mainstream consumer. I’ve always believed if they are side-by-side a consumer can decide if they see a difference. I hope 2018 gives more consumers the chance to do this.

If just a couple beauty editors would do this

I want a crossover indie perfume– There are times I wonder if I am just part of a perfume lovers’ echo chamber. When I get that way an e-mail or two from someone who tried something new shows up to remind me that the word sometimes escapes the chamber. Tauer L’Air du Desert Marocain was the perfume which shone the big media spotlight on the independent perfumers. Since then the number of people doing it has skyrocketed but none of the perfumes themselves have found the same celebrity. The perfumers can just keep doing the great work they continue to do. This wish is up to a beauty editor, or two, at a big magazine to look outside the samples from the big brands and open their eyes.

As we enter 2018 I want to wish everyone who spends a little of their time reading Colognoisseur a Healthy and Happy New Year. I’m ready to see what surprises and perfumes 2018 will bring.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2017 Year-End Review Part 3- The Top 25 New Perfumes of the Year

This year I tried 678 new perfumes which once again keeps me below the 50% mark of all new perfumes released in 2017. When sniffing this many perfumes there tends to be a lot of background noise as many coalesce into a generic sameness. What is presented below are the perfumes which rise above that.

The Top 5 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)

5. DSH Perfumes Gekkou Hanami– Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz never fails to surprise me in a given year. In 2017 she has had many releases worthy of high praise. I was completely blown away by this first in her Haiku Series. Ms. Hurwitz builds a perfume of delicacy around themes of life and death in the moonlight infused with cherry blossoms. Both of the other Haiku series released this year; Tsukiyo-en and Tsukimi were almost as good.

4. Parfum D’Empire La Cri de La Lumiere– A spectrally transparent study of light as fragrance. Perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato uses a trio of ambrette, iris, and rose to form a perfume which will define light when I speak of it in relation to this art form in the future.

3. Naomi Goodsir Nuit de Bakelite– The creative direction of Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier matched with the virtuosity of perfumer Isabelle Doyen provided the best tuberose of 2017. Their choice to focus on the green stemmy quality by editing out the flower they found something within which reinvents tuberose.

2. Bruno Fazzolari Feu Secret– What do you do when you decide to make a perfume from one of the most expensive ingredients you can? If you’re independent perfumer Bruno Fazzolari you take orris butter and challenge it with “dirty” notes like turmeric, birch tar, and eucalyptus. They don’t harmonize, they confront. What orris butter has to say in response is what makes Feu Secret special.

1. Ineke Idyllwild– A more detailed reason can be found in Part 2. Idyllwild is a contemporary fougere that pairs expertise and artistry. Ineke Ruhland is back after five years in a big way.

Here are the rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order

A Lab on Fire California Snow– A brilliant debut for perfumer Mackenzie Reilly that is more Palm Springs than Lake Tahoe.

Aftelier Velvet Tuberose– After smelling so many tuberoses the last one of the year was one of the best. Mandy Aftel found the softer texture within.

April Aromatics Pink Wood– Independent perfumer Tanja Bochnig created this dynamic rose perfume for a competition where she finished third! Simply inconceivable to me.

Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio Azahares– The best of the collection from creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux produced for a Mexican department store. Orange blossom, lavender, and iris show Sr. Flores-Roux’s brilliance with floral ingredients.

Atelier Cologne Café Tuberosa– Creative director Sylvie Cervasel and perfumer Jerome Epinette pour a shot of rich esperesso over a full spectrum tuberose to fabulous effect.

Comme des Garcons Vogue 125– A mixture of Polaroid developer and cigarette smoke might not conjure the premiere fashion magazine in the world. That’s the genius of this perfume which never plays it safe while it makes sure both names on the label stand for innovation.

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Sale Gosse– The other significant perfumer debut this year. Fanny Bal decides a perfume of youth should smell like violet chewing gum. Makes me smile every time I wear it.

Eris Parfums Mx.- Creative director Barbara Herman with perfumer Antoine Lie continue their successful collaboration with a perfume which shows unisex does not mean boring.

Etat Libre D’Orange Une Amourette Roland Mouret Creative director Etienne de Swardt along with fashion designer Roland Mouret get perfumer Daniela Andrier to unleash her most sensuous perfume in years.

Grandiflora Boronia– Creative director Saskia Havekes working with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour capture an Australian greenhouse with an indigenous white flower providing the keynote.

Imaginary Authors O! UnknownJosh Meyer has gotten better and better; this is his best perfume. He finds a precise balance between a transparent tea accord and orris butter. Easy to write, much harder to realize.

John Varvatos Artisan Pure– Best mainstream perfume of the year. Rodrigo Flores-Roux adds to his legacy as the only perfumer for John Varvatos with a tableau of a summer hillside in Mexico.

Maison Kitsune X Heeley Note de Yuzu– Perfumer James Heeley channels the Maison Kitsune aesthetic and creates a salty broth of citrus which I just wanted to marinate in.

Masque Milano Times Square– HBO’s series “The Deuce” reminded us of 1970’s era Times Square. I had already had my memory revived with this perfume from creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi working with perfumer Bruno Jovanovic. A fantastic realization of this time period.

Memo Eau de Memo Creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet celebrated ten years of making perfume together by not looking back. Instead they launched the second decade with what they do best make some of the best niche perfume around.

Puredistance Warszawa– Creative director Jan Ewoud Vos was shown pictures of the Golden Age in Warsaw. Perfumer Antoine Lie turned this into the best Retro Nouveau perfume of 2017.

Sonoma Scent Studio Bee’s BlissLaurie Erickson made a perfume of rich viscous honey which enthralled me.

Vero Profumo Naja– Last year I made a wish for a new perfume from Vero Kern. Naja did not disappoint as it was an ever-developing tobacco focused construct. It was easily the perfume I have had the most fun dissecting this year.

Vilhelm Parfumerie Basilico & Fellini Creative director Jan Ahlgren continues to look to Hollywood for inspiration. Famed director’s Frederico Fellini’s love of basil was turned into a Nouveau Cologne by perfumer Jerome Epinette. Refreshing and innovative just like the name on the bottle.

Xinu Monstera– Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux found a kindred spirit in creative director Veronica Alejandra Pena. Monstera is the best of that collaboration as the scent of the leaves in the jungle slowly change into leather.

Zoologist Civet– First new perfume of 2017 was another triumph for creative director Victor Wong who had independent perfumer Shelley Waddington begin the year of tuberose with one of the most memorable. They fused it with animalic notes in the heart to create magic.

The Final Cuts (The Other 25 best perfumes of 2017)

Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle Superstitious– Another successful collaboration between fashion designer and creative director via Dominique Ropion.

Beaufort London Iron Duke– A cavalry charge right into my perfumed heart.

Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours– Best fruity floral of the year

Bruno Fazzolari Ummagumma– The chocolate from Cadavre Exquis gets a starring role.

Cartier Baiser Fou– A fruit flavored lip gloss turned into perfume.

Comme des Garcons Concrete– The best example of making deconstructed mean something

Elizabeth & James Nirvana Amethyst– Best bang for your buck especially if you like tobacco.

En Voyage Figa Shelley Waddington finds beauty in superstition.

Escentric 04– Geza Schoen returns to his molecules with the best of the bunch.

Etat Libre D’Orange You or Someone Like You– Chandler Burr and perfumer Caroline Sabas made a better artistic statement on LA than “La La Land”

Fath’s Essentials Lilas Exquis– A fabulous lilac from perfumer Luca Maffei.

Gucci Bloom– There’s a new direction at Gucci; if there’s more like this it will be memorable.

Hermes Eau des Merveilles Bleue– Christine Nagel’s mineralic aquatic.

Homoelegans Paloma y Raices– Mamey and tuberose form a quirky fruity floral.

Jul et Mad Mon Seul Desir– A tapestry woven of osmanthus and oud.

L’Artisan Histoire D’ Orangers– A desert valley of orange trees.

Le Labo Mousse de Chene 30– Daphne Bugey shows that chypre is still alive and kicking.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood Extrait– Francis Kurkdjian rearranges the notes from the original and makes it better.

Mancera Red Tobacco– A fever dream tobacco.

Mona di Orio Dojima– Perfumer Frederik Dalman continues the Monaesque aesthetic.

Parfumerie Generale 19.1 Neroli ad Astra– The first of the re-works to stand equivalent yet different from the original.

Parfums de Marly Delina– The best feminine perfume from the brand, ever.

Tauer Attar AT– A fantastic limited edition from Andy Tauer.

Tiffany & Co. The jeweler returns to perfume brilliantly.

Tom Ford Noir Anthracite– The most noir of any Tom Ford with that on its label.

That’s it for my look back at 2017.

If you missed them; Part 1 was my broad overview.

Part 2 was where I revealed my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2017 Year-End Review Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, & Brand of the Year

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Yesterday, in Part 1, I took a broad view of 2017. Today I take a very focused look at the year naming my best of the best.

Perfume of the Year: Ineke Idyllwild– I met independent perfume Ineke Ruhland in April 2009. My editor at the time Michelyn Camen would introduce me to her in the perfume department of Takashimaya in New York City. She had just made one of the best perfumes I had tried in Field Notes from Paris. I was doing a bit of fanboy gushing. She smiled, listened to my insensate gibbering; then after I calmed down we began to connect. Ms. Ruhland has been one of my very favorite indie perfumers ever since I discovered her Alphabet series. It is a near-perfect collection of perfume. She continually produced releases until 2012 and then nothing. Two years ago at Pitti in Florence she had a stand where she was showing the next two letters in the Alphabet Collection “I” & “J”. “I” was one of my favorites of the entire exposition. I excitedly waited to write about it when it was released. And I waited. And I waited. Almost exactly two years later Idyllwild was released.

Ineke Ruhland

Idyllwild is emblematic of why I admire Ms. Ruhland as she takes a classic perfume style, fougere, then transforms it into something contemporary. From the typical lavender and citrus opening through a pine tree heart to delicate tendrils of smoke this is expertly blended. Supporting notes of green cardamom, rhubarb tea, and a fabulously delicate oud accord for her smoke show her skill. Ms. Ruhland combines the technical expertise with the artist’s soul to make Idyllwild my Perfume of the Year.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Perfumer of the Year: Rodrigo Flores-Roux– I can’t remember the first time I met Sr. Flores-Roux but the one thing I know with certainty he was smiling. While I don’t remember the first time, my most memorable meeting took place in October 2012. Sr. Flores-Roux along with Arquiste creative director Carlos Huber were presenting the new brand at the Mexican Embassy’s Cultural Center. I have never forgotten the following quote from his remarks that night, “Maybe I can cite a Mexican poet, Carlos Pellicer, who always praised the beauty of the Mexican tropics: the Mexican people have two obsessions: we are interested in death and we are in love with flowers. And as a Mexican flower lover, I always like to put a bit of Mexico in every perfume I make. It's not an accident I studied biology, specifically botany, and understand the secret language of flowers. It's also my last name!”

Carlos Huber (l.) and Rodrigo Flores-Roux at Mexican Embassy Cultural Center October 2012

That quote is an apt epigraph to sum up his 2017 perfumes where there was more than a little Mexico in them. It was literally a travelogue as no less than eight different perfumes had distinct Mexican inspirations. The three Arquiste releases for the Mexican department store El Palacio de Hierro were the best examples of his ability as a “Mexican flower lover”. Azahares is perhaps his best pure floral perfume ever. He would exercise his indie sensibility in the four perfumes he collaborated on for the small line called Xinu. Monstera is a raw green vegetal perfume which almost magically transforms to leather. This is the botanist at play. His final trip comes from the mainstream release, John Varvatos Artisan Pure. Here he uses a less complex palette to create the summer hillsides of Xalapa. That it is every bit as compelling as the other seven mentioned is a testament to the breadth of perfume he produced this year.

I’m not even including the three Carner Barcelona Black Collection perfumes, his continued work for Tom Ford Private Blend, and his three Palindromes for Santi Burgas. Every one of these confirms my choice.

I think Sr. Flores-Roux has been a runner-up every year I have made this choice. I am happy to name him Perfumer of the Year for wearing his love of Mexico in his perfume.

Runner-ups: Luca Maffei, Jerome Epinette, Bruno Fazzolari, Daniela Andrier, and Antoine Lie.

Jerome Epinette (l.) and Jan Ahlgren

Creative Director of the Year: Jan Ahlgren of Vilhelm Parfumerie– When I am asked, “What’s the brand nobody is talking about?” My answer for the last couple years has been Vilhelm Parfumerie. Ever since it’s founding in 2015 Jan Ahlgren has transformed his love of classic Hollywood, the places he loves in the cities he has lived in, and a generally contemporary aesthetic into a fantastic collection of nineteen perfumes. The 2017 releases of Do Not Disturb, Harlem Bloom, and Basilico & Fellini are some of the best in the collection he oversees with perfumer Jerome Epinette. That choice of working with a single perfumer has resulted in a creative ability to build upon each previous release. When I read the inspiration for a perfume in a press release I am way too frequently left scratching my head. That Mr. Ahlgren can translate his vision into a perfume which doesn’t do that is why he is the Creative Director of the Year.

Runner-ups: Frederic Malle (Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle), Etienne de Swardt (Etat Libre D’Orange), and Christian Astuguevieille (Comme des Garcons).

Brand of the Year: Comme des Garcons– If there is a pillar of the niche perfume sector it is Comme des Garcons. That they continue to innovate twenty three years after releasing their first perfume is amazing. In 2017 they opened with a reminder of their past as they released ten of their previous trendsetters in the Comme des Garcons Olfactory Library. I write Comme des Garcons is ahead of its time; the re-releases ask if time has caught up. The three new releases: Concrete, Andy Warhol’s You’re In, and Vogue 125 all show this is a brand which still has much to say. The past might have been amazing but the present is glorious which makes Comme des Garcons my Brand of the Year.

Runner-ups: DSH Perfumes, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Vilhelm Parfumerie, A Lab on Fire, and Parfums de Marly.

Part 1 was my broad overview of 2017

Part 3 is my Top 25 New Perfumes of 2017

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2017 Year-End Review Part 1- Overview

1

2017 is a year which begins to clarify some of the shifting consumer dynamics. As companies look to create new brand loyalties from younger consumers they also continue to try to appeal to their longtime devotees. This is a more difficult task than it might seem for an ambitious brand. If there is one thing which became clear while sniffing the 678 new perfumes this year it was this divide. A year ago when I wrote this overview it wasn’t that obvious. Within the first quarter of 2017, when I get inundated with rose perfumes, that kind of concentration of data showed some trends.

I said Deconstructed not DEVO

One of 2017’s favorite descriptors was “deconstructed”. What this meant was taking a version of a keynote and using one of the different isolates which removed or diminished the “problematic” part. Think indoles being removed from white flowers and you get the idea. It had the effect of making these perfumes lighter in style. When used just for that effect those perfumes were generally not that interesting. In fact by deconstructing they also removed some of the interesting character. When perfumers took those new spaces and filled them in with different alternatives it provided both the lighter style and something interesting. Comme des Garcons Concrete is an excellent example of this. Perfumer Nicolas Beaulieu used different sandalwood sources where it was hollowed out. Into that space he added a different rose source in rose oxide. You’ve smelled sandalwood and rose many times but deconstructed this way it felt different. If this style can become popular it has the opportunity of appealing to perfume lovers of all generations.

Note of the Year

Every year Pantone surveys the colors used by fashion designers and names a “Color of the Year”. Nobody does that for perfume but based on my sample the “Note of the Year” was tuberose. This follows on with the deconstruction trend as there were now tuberose sources for a perfumer to use which did remove those problematic indoles, or attenuate that overt floral nature with more green. It ended up being a renaissance for this ingredient as there were multiple takes on it released. They covered ground as divergent as the green stemmy version of Naomi Goodsir Nuit de Bakelite to the coffee drenched interpretation of Atelier Cologne Café Tuberosa. I was constantly impressed at the number of excellent tuberose perfumes I tried.

Last year I genially grumped that my favorite independent perfumers let me down. This year was the opposite as Laurie Erickson, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Bruno Fazzolari, Shelley Waddington, Josh Meyer, Mandy Aftel, Vero Kern, Ineke Ruhland, Andy Tauer, and Tanja Bochnig reminded me how critical these very singular voices are.

Fanny Bal (l.) and Mackenzie Reilly

There were two new exciting voices I am looking forward to seeing what the future will bring. Perfumer Fanny Bal produced Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Sale Gosse and Mackenzie Reilly who composed A Lab on Fire California Snow. Both were stunning debuts which hopefully are harbingers of things to come. I know Mme Bal is working on a new Masque Milano which confirms her potential based on working for a brand which has one of the best track records of discovering young perfumers. It is already high on my list of most looking forward to in 2018.

At the halfway point of the year I was unimpressed by the offerings within the mainstream sector. The back half of 2017 was a different story. Thierry Mugler Aura and Chanel Gabrielle both provided new pillars for their brands. Gucci Bloom was another of the better tuberose interpretations. John Varvatos Artisan Pure was a Mexican hillside in summer. Tiffany & Co. re-invented the fragrance brand of the jeweler into 2017 relevance. Elizabeth & James Nirvana Amethyst continues that brand’s winning streak. While Tom Ford Noir Anthracite and Valentino Uomo Noir Absolu gave me flankers I liked much more than the originals.

I have enjoyed the diversity of releases over the year which makes my revelation, over the next two days, of my Best of the Year so much fun.

Tomorrow I name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

The next day I reveal my Top 25 New Releases of 2017

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Hoiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide 2017 Part 2- Support your Local Perfumery

I am not the biggest fan of the shopping mania that breaks out after Thanksgiving in the US. Black Friday makes me blue and Cyber Monday makes me want to unplug. Since 2010 there has been a way for me to participate in the Holiday shopping spirit. That year American Express created “Small Business Saturday”. By using Facebook and television commercials they urged shoppers to go to their local independent merchants instead of the mall. In just a short time it has become a huge success. Just in my local area several of the small city shopping districts are having special promotions. When it comes to perfume that means the locally owned and operated perfumery. For Part 2 of the Holiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide I am going to focus on some of the brands which have become widely available in these stores.

This part of the guide is going to be aimed at people who are perfume wearers already although a couple of choices I will call out as excellent entry points. Latest review of each brand will be linked. Finally, I still think you shouldn’t buy a bottle of perfume for another and instead should use my “How to Buy Perfume as a Gift” as a way to gift fragrance. The beauty of that method at these small businesses is they are all about customer service and you should have no problem following my suggestion.

New Lines Which Have Impressed

Here are four brands which have shone in 2017. All of them are well worth exploring.

Vilhelm Parfumerie– Over the past two years there has been no new brand which has impressed me more than this one. Creative Director Jan Ahlgren and perfumer Jerome Epinette started strong and in 2017 they released one good perfume after the other. My favorite was Basilico & Fellini which is an example of all this brand is getting right.

Tauerville Flash Collection– Indie perfumer Andy Tauer wanted a set of perfumes which were meant as welcome mats to the independent style of perfumery. The Flash series has been that as well as also making perfumes which still had enough for the experienced colognoisseur. The latest release, Patch Flash, turns patchouli into a soft note paired with leather.

Zoologist Perfumes– Owner and Creative Director Victor Wong has collaborated with some of the brightest lights in independent perfumery over the past two years. Zoologist is quickly becoming one of the most diverse brands on the shelf because Mr. Wong lets his heart, and nose, make the decisions. The release of Civet earlier this year is a prime example.

Shay & Blue– Creative Director Dom DeVetta and perfumer Julie Masse have been quietly putting out excellent perfumes but this year they finally received wider distribution in the US. 2017 has been a watershed year for the brand and this is best exemplified by the intelligent lily accord at the center of Scarlet Lily.

Older Brands Continuing to Impress

Just because there are brands with that “new car” smell some of the established brands have also had strong years.

Imaginary Authors– Perfumer Josh Meyer really hit his stride this year. This line of perfume based on fragrances which have an imaginary book as their inspiration is fun but not without making some serious perfume. O! Unknown is probably the best perfume in the collection as black tea, iris, and sandalwood form a meditation on the final journey.

InekeIneke Ruhland had been out of sight but this year saw her return as all her previously released fragrances began to be available again. This is one of the best collections by any independent perfumer. If we had any doubt the new Idyllwild, a contemporary fougere shot through with pine, reminded us how good she is.

Byredo– This brand has been around as creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette have created an aesthetic which is still compelling after ten years. This year’s Velvet Haze shows that style at its very best in an homage to the 1960’s viewing patchouli through a haze of memory.

The Experimental

These are three of the most eclectic brands you can find. There are less provocative entries in all of them but in 2017 my favorites are not for the faint of heart…. or nose.

Beaufort London– This could easily have fit in the first category except creative director Leo Crabtree and perfumer Julie Dunkley keep expertly capturing the smells of a battlefield. Iron Duke is inspired by the first Duke of Wellington and takes you right onto the battlefield with him complete with gunsmoke, saddle leather and sweaty steed.

D.S. & Durga– The D.S. in the brand stands for perfumer David Seth Moltz. Given some new chemical ingredients with which to play with he made one of the most memorable perfumes of the year in Vio-Volta. An electrically charged version of violet; it is compelling in its oddness.

Masque Milano– This could have easily fit in the second category as creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi also lead with the heart of an artist and not the bottom line of an accountant. This year’s Times Square where they work with perfumer Bruno Jovanovic displays all of that as they capture 1993 Times Square when it wasn’t so tourist friendly. The perfume reflects that hidden jeopardy around every corner, in each dark alley. A perfume of gritty florals, neon lipstick, latex, and leather before sandalwood brings you to safety.

Every independent perfume store is full of perfume different from that available at the mall. The list above is a great place to start but it never hurts to just treat the experience like an advent calendar and open as many flaps as you can.

Happy Holiday shopping to everyone.

Disclosure: All samples were provided by the brands.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Holiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide 2017 Part 1- At The Mall

The Holiday shopping season is about to begin in earnest. In the US it is signaled by the day after Thanksgiving dubbed Black Friday. Every mall in North America will be filled with shoppers. I thought I’d help those who are out shopping with a checklist of the new mass-market perfumes which have come out this year. This all comes with the caveat that I think buying perfume for someone else is a very difficult task. My "How to Give Perfume as a Gift" can be found in this link. If you want to buy a bottle for someone here are thirteen you will probably find at the mall this weekend and throughout the Holiday shopping season. All are linked to the original review earlier this year.

In the Department Stores

At the fragrance counters of the bigger stores you will find these four:

Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours– A fruity floral leather ideal for the colder temperatures

Jason Wu– A transparent jasmine for someone who doesn’t want something “too perfume-y”.

Jo Malone Green Almond & Redcurrant– A fragrance equivalent of fruit cake; in a very good way.

Tiffany & Co.- An iris soliflore as brilliant as an amethyst solitaire.

The New Ones from the Big Names

2017 saw three mainstream releases from three of the biggest brands in perfume all of them seem to be aiming for the younger demographic. These should also be available widely at anyplace which generally carries these brands.

Twilly D’Hermes– A simple ginger, tuberose, and sandalwood fragrance meant to be someone’s first perfume.

Chanel Gabrielle– A slightly more complex white flower accord sandwiched between citrus and sandalwood.

Thierry Mugler Aura– Here the white flowers are found in a humid green jungle brimming with vanilla.

The Flankers

There have been some good flankers released this year here are three to consider:

Tom Ford Noir Anthracite– This is a very different version of Noir than the previous releases. More spicy and much darker.

Prada Candy Gloss– The cherry, orange blossom, and vanilla perfume is one of the most fun releases and one of the best of 2017.

Valentino Uomo Noir Absolu– A perfume for scarves and sweaters with spices, incense, iris, and sandalwood.

Bang for the Buck

These three are excellent choices at the lower end of the price spectrum

Elizabeth and James Nirvana Amethyst A gorgeous tobacco fragrance. Honestly the entire Elizabeth and James brand is a best buy.

Commodity Bergamot– A shaft of summer sunlight in a bottle glowing with citrus.

Ellis Brooklyn Rives– A fougere framed with petitgrain, neroli, cashmeran, and leather.

If you must buy perfume as a gift these are all good choices. In Part 2 tomorrow I’ll highlight the brands you might find in the small independent perfume sellers for Small Business Saturday.

Disclosure: All perfumes mentioned had samples sent to me from the brand except for Chanel Gabrielle which I purchased.

Mark Behnke