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 Jean-Michel Duriez Parfums Bleu Framboise- Raspberry Beret

If there is a perfumer I have been aware of for a long time who I wish to make a splash it is Jean-Michel Duriez. M. Duriez was the perfumer behind one of my favorite perfumes of all time Yohji Yamamoto Yohji Homme. That came out in 1999. Two years later he was hired by Proctor & Gamble to be the in-house perfumer for the revival of the Jean Patou brand they had just bought. To say I was happy was an understatement as one of the perfumers I admired was going to revive my favorite heritage fragrance brand…..then nothing. The support never came they added him as perfumer at Rochas in 2008 where he released a few things. Because I was curious if all this inactivity had affected his creativity I acquired his last fragrance for Rochas a Dubai exclusive called Secret de Rochas Oud Mystere. A mango, osmanthus, patchouli and oud accord reminded me why it was worth the effort.

Jean-Michel Duriez (photo: Gerard Uferas)

In February, I learned he had finally ditched the corporate overseers and had established his own brand which could be purchased in France. Seven perfumes each representing M. Duriez’s impressions of Paris and the Seine River. Once again, I had to rev up my network to obtain them for me. I have recently received a Discovery Set of all seven. I am still working my way through them all but the one which felt just right for the beginning of summer was Bleu Framboise.

Photo by Gerard Uferas

Part of each of the perfumes is M. Duriez uses a photograph by photographer Gerard Uferas as the companion piece/brief. For Bleu Framboise it is the colors of that sky, seen above, that M. Duriez wants to evoke. The deep blue is represented by chamomile and chypre while the magenta is raspberry and rose.

What drew me in to Bleu Framboise was the grapefruit and rhubarb opening. This is becoming one of my favorite citrus openings because of the sulfurous aspects of both the grapefruit and the rhubarb providing an unusual contrast to the typical sunny citrus accord. In this case it provides some shading to that brightness. The bleu part comes next as chamomile shows up first. Quickly followed by the raspberry and the rose. The rose used is a Turkish rose and it adds a jammy quality to the raspberry. This leads to a base of patchouli and an oakmoss accord to form a modern chypre foundation.

Bleu Framboise has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am so very pleased that M. Duriez is back in the world of perfume in a more direct way. I think he is one of the best perfumers working now others will get a chance to experience his perfume, too. These new perfumes under his brand show much of why I believe in his creativity. I’ll be following up with a couple more reviews of others in the line before too long. For now Bleu Framboise is going to be like to paraphrase Prince’s Raspberry Beret , “If it’s warm I wouldn’t wear much more”

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample set I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Boot or Reboot: Yohji Homme 1999 & 2013

It seems like some of the greatest discontinued fragrances have been reformulated in the last twelve months. Much like the reformulation of Patou pour Homme I approached the new version of Yohji Homme with some concern.

yohji homme

The original Yohji Homme was released in 1999; it was signed by Jean-Michel Duriez just at the moment Proctor & Gamble had acquired Jean Patou. When I smelled Yohji Homme I was swept away with this spicy licorice and lavender concoction. It was clearly not a success as it would disappear from shelves within three years. In that endless internal conversation about the best masculine perfumes ever Yohji Homme is right there in the mix. Late in 2013 the newly reformulated Yohji Homme was released with perfumer Olivier Pescheux taking on the task. He consulted with M. Duriez but this was a difficult task because a few of the ingredients had been restricted by IFRA regulations and a couple others were from the resources M. Duriez had while at Patou.

jean michel duriez

Jean-Michel Duriez

The 1999 version of Yohji Homme started with one of the best lavenders I have ever encountered in a fragrance it is so close to the real lavender that grows outside my house. It pushes right to the edge of being unpleasant because of its strength. M. Duriez then wraps this intense lavender in strands of black licorice. It is a bold beginning and it becomes even bolder as coriander and cinnamon are joined by geranium and carnation to form a spicy floral heart which slithers underneath the lavender and licorice insinuating itself within the slight olfactory space available to it. After about an hour on my skin these notes combine to produce a singular accord like nothing else in my experience. If that was all there was Yohji Homme would have been great but the base adds in a rum-soaked leather and things take a quantum leap forward. It never fails to be a fascinating ride and a perfume which delivers time and again.

olivier pescheux

Olivier Pescheux

M. Pescheux in the 2013 version of Yohji Homme is really trying to do this with one hand tied behind his back while jumping on one foot. Because of the lack of availability of the restricted and proprietary ingredients M. Duriez used in the original, M Pescheux was forced into Hobson ’s choice time and again. When it comes to the lavender used it is in no way close to the quality from the original, the same goes for the licorice. The leather is tamed instead of wild. The cinnamon lacks the same bite. The same progression as the original is there but the new version sort of lurches through its transitions. I almost smell an audible clunk as the less strident lavender and licorice seem to just get out of the way of the spice and florals in the heart. By the time the base notes of leather and rum show up they seem too polite. This new version feels like recreating the Eiffel Tower in wood. It looks like the same thing but it lacks in majesty and power.

It is obvious that the Reboot comes nowhere near the Boot and that’s a shame because it feels like in 1999 the perfume world was not ready for Yohji Homme but in 2013 it is less of an outlier. If you had never tried the original I think many will be enchanted by the new version as all of the important beats are there and it is still a unique fragrance. M. Pescheux did a great job considering the straitjacket he was bound in. One other difference between the two is the original is a powerhouse which lasts all-day the new one barely made it through the workday. The new Yohji Homme has been exclusive to Selfridge’s in the UK and is expected to be released wider by the end of 2014.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of both versions of Yohji Homme I purchased.

Mark Behnke