Colognoisseur 2017 Hopes and Wishes

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As we put 2016 to bed it is time to look forward to 2017. I like to end every year with some things I am anticipating and/or hoping for to happen in the next twelve months.

C'mon Vero, Pretty Please?

A new perfume from Vero Kern. It has almost been three years since the release of Rozy. Vero has teased us a little bit that the next one is going to be a tobacco focused fragrance. I know it will come out when she feels it is ready but my inner five-year old is getting ready to wail if I lead off this piece in twelve months with the same wish.

I would like new brands to put fragrance over marketing. I went back and looked; 2016 was no worse for the number of brand debuts sporting upwards of six perfumes. What did seem to be worse was the pricing for perfumes where the money did not seem to be in the bottle. Please if you’re a brand-new brand focus on the perfume; make it great. Try and only do three or four perfumes. Don’t rush to the market.

Le Labo Counter at Tyson's Corner Mall in Virginia

More Le Labo, more places. There was a lot of worry over Estee Lauder’s acquisition of Le Labo. One of the things I have thought is necessary for niche perfume to really expand is more access. In my local mall, they installed a Le Labo counter in the local Nordstrom’s. When it first opened in April it was busy on every visit but nothing like it was on my Holiday visit. Le Labo is one of the exemplars of what it means to be a niche perfume. Estee Lauder taking it to the mall shows that consumers will gravitate to quality if it is right in front of them. I am hoping that this will be rolled out across the country in places where niche is not readily available.

I want a masterpiece from Perfumers: The Next Generation…all of them. Quentin Bisch, Cristiano Canali, Luca Maffei, Julien Rasquinet, and Cecile Zarokian are this set of next generation perfumers I think of as the next set of rule-breakers. They have all consistently stepped up their game over the last couple of years. I want 2017 to have a release from each of them that makes my choice for Perfume of the Year the most difficult it has ever been. Make it so!

I hope we found the ceiling. For the first time since I’ve been writing about perfume the number of new releases were about the same in 2016 as they were in 2015. I always believed there was a number where the market could not continue to expand beyond. 2017, if it stays about the same, can be the third data point which confirms this.

Can this Spring be about something other than rose? The last two years I have been buried by fresh clean rose perfumes for Spring. I can hope that maybe a new floral can take center stage. Jasmine, perhaps?

On this final day of 2016 I want to wish every single reader the Happiest and Healthiest of New Years. Colognoisseur has grown beyond the goals I set for myself back when I started almost three years ago. For that I must thank everyone who spends a couple minutes here reading my writing. I hope 2017 brings us even more perfumed joy.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Andrea Maack Smart- Interesting Intersections

Back in 2011 there were a number of visual artists taking a shot at expanding into fragrance. I can remember the great majority of these efforts to have a lot of vision and no juice. The visual inspiration piece was usually paired up with a ham-handed attempt at smelling different. They often eschewed using perfumers to their detriment. I had gotten to the point that when they started talking about being multi-disciplinary I wanted to tell them to stick to the single discipline they do well, which wasn’t perfume.

andrea-maack 1

Andrea Maack

That was my frame of mind when I received the initial collection of Icelandic artist Andrea Maack. Ms. Maack had a press release full of multi-disciplinary verbiage. I was expecting to be bored. Instead her initial three fragrances showed a remarkable degree of polish. The reason was she chose to work with Renaud Coutaudier as her co-creative director and they used perfumer Julien Rasquinet very early in his career. Of the initial three I liked Craft and Sharp but Smart is the one which I purchased a bottle of.

julien rasquinet

Julien Rasquinet

Ms. Maack’s visual art at this time was fluid geometrics. It is a style which appealed to me. This aesthetic managed to make it into her initial three perfumes as all of them had bold lines which intersected in unusual ways. The creative team and M. Rasquinet were always looking to establish contrasts within intersections. Smart is a good example of this.

renaud coutaudier

Renaud Coutaudier

Smart opens with the metallic tang of violet leaves. This is a top note which imparts a uniquely contemporary vibe almost turning it industrial. Before it can go too far in that direction a sweetly floral vector overlays itself consisting of jasmine and vanilla. The vanilla is a greener version as if of the orchid carrying more green facets along with the sweet. The jasmine picks that up and as it coats the metallic violet leaves it forms an appealing duet. M. Rasquinet then lays down a strong through line of sandalwood. The sandalwood is its very typical creamy woody version. As the sandalwood settles in a final animalic arc arrives with a leather accord and musk. M. Rasquinet balances these four strong lines skillfully so at their intersection there is much to enjoy.

Smart has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ms. Maack would end up adding four more to the original three. Of those Coal and Coven were my favorites. This is a line worth checking out not only for the fragrances but also as a place where rising star perfumer M. Rasquinet was developing his skills. There is much to admire of his work for the brand. If you’re looking for something multi-disciplinary Andrea Maack Smart is one of the few which promise that, which also delivers.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Histoires de Parfums Fidelis- Cardamom Alloy

I think when you look out at fragrance industry that produces so many new fragrances it is easy to become a bit jaded. I know one of the things which keeps that from happening to me is watching the younger generation of perfumers begin to develop what will become their signature style. One of those younger perfumers who I am enjoying watch evolve is Julien Rasquinet. It Is early on in his career but one of the things which I am finding he is particularly adept at is forming a specific accord as a focal point for many of the perfumes he composes. His latest for Histoires de Parfums is called Fidelis and it shows this.

gerald-ghislain

Gerald Ghislain

Another thing I have admired about M. Rasquinet is his ability to collaborate with creative directors. Gerald Ghislain has been the creative director behind Histoires de Parfums since its inception in 2000. His vision for what makes an entry in his brand has been remarkably consistent over that time. Fidelis is the seventh perfume in the Editions Rare line, following the two trilogies of Ambrarem, Petroleum, Rosam and Veni, Vidi, Vici. Fidelis stands on its own.

julien rasquinet

Julien Rasquinet

The Editions Rare releases are set to the theme of different types of gold. Fidelis is meant to be pink gold. Pink gold is actually an alloy of about 20% copper and 80% gold. The alloy has an unusual beauty as it seems like the yellow gold provides a warmth to the copper producing pink. M. Rasquinet also goes for a similar effect in Fidelis taking the well-known oud and rose combination and adding a cardamom laced spice accord to ensnare it.

Fidlelis opens on a fabulous rich cardamom. I relished the first few moments every time I wore Fidelis. As a cardamom lover this is so good I want M. Ghislain to just release the cardamom. That is not what makes a whole composition and M. Rasquinet takes this cardamom and wraps it up with saffron and cumin. This is the accord building I am speaking of which is becoming a characteristic of M. Rasquinet. The saffron provides a shimmery warmth to the cool cardamom. The cumin adds a more primal element to the accord. Together this is a deeply satisfying cardamom accord. The note list mentions coffee but it never came out on my skin. The heart is rose with a bit of raspberry accentuating the sweet over the spicy as the top accord is persisting into the heart and carries the spice quotient. All of this rests on a base of oud, amber, and patchouli. Here the cumin comes full circle and pulls the patchouli into the spice accord. The oud harmonizes with that accord as the amber and the rose fill in the spaces.

Fidelis has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am coming to categorize M. Rasquinet’s perfumes in my head based on their accords. Fidleis goes down as the “amazing cardamom, cumin, and saffron” one. If you are a fan of spices in perfume and cardamom in particular Fidelis needs to be on your list to try. It is my favorite of the Editions Rare.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Histoires de Parfums.

Mark Behnke

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.

christophe laudamiel

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.

CELINE_VERLEURE 

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).

sylvie christophe

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 Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre- Viridescent Iris

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I think if you are a writer, or reader, that means you have an inherent love of words. One of my favorite words is “viridescent”. It is an adjective which means greenish or becoming green. I have known that at some point in time there would be a perfume for which this adjective would be appropriate. That fragrance has arrived, Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre.

naomi-goodsir

Naomi Goodsir

Ever since meeting Naomi Goodsir at Esxence in 2012 she has become one of my favorite people in all of perfumery. She and partner Renaud Coutaudier have fashioned what I consider one of the best examples on what it takes to succeed as a small niche brand today. In 2012 they began with two releases Cuir Velours and Bois D’Ascese. Many brands would have followed those up rapidly. It took almost a year and a half for the third release Or du Serail. Nearly another 18 months on and the fourth release, Iris Cendre, was premiered at Pitti Fragranze 2015. From many conversations with Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier I know there is nothing which trumps the creative process. They will not add a new release until it is what they think it should be. There is a project currently in the pipeline that I am sure she is tired of me asking about. Her response every time is there is still something left to do to make it what she and M. Coutaudier want it to be. Unlike many of their contemporaries at Pitti Fragranze who release multiple fragrances at a time until the best of their brand is buried underneath an avalanche of mediocrity; Ms. Goodsir has taken the opposite approach. This fastidious attention to detail has produced the best perfume in a line which I already prize highly in Iris Cendre.

renaud coutaudier

Renaud Coutaudier (Photo: Claudio Bonoldi)

For Iris Cendre Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier return to working with perfumer Julien Rasquinet with whom they did the first two releases. It is my speculation that the previous work helped Iris Cendre begin at an advanced state of understanding between the creative team. What has been produced is a unique iris perfume made viridescent.

julien rasquinet

Julien Rasquinet

M. Rasquinet opens with a sweet flourish of tangerine and bergamot bolstered with a grace note of spices. Consider it a flamboyant bow as the curtain raises on the star of the show an extremely decadent orris butter. When orris is used in this form it very often opens very rich, eventually evolving into something very powdery. M. Rasquinet uses a clever assortment of notes to prevent that from happening. Instead of turning into something found on the cosmetics counter it is more like something found beneath the earth as the iris stays much closer to its rooty origination as the rhizome from which orris butter is derived. Early on M. Rasquinet matches the iris with violet adding in the more floral quality of a different purple flower. At this point in any other perfume a descent into powder would be inevitable. Here a clean incense with a slightly metallic character cuts that off at the pass. It picks up the rooty qualities and even makes the violet more astringent. In the base M. Raquinet uses a variation on the cistus, tobacco, and amber construct he used previously in Bois D’Ascese. In that fragrance it was what lurked under the smoke. Here it provides a bit of translucent haze for the final phases.

Iris Cendre has 12-14 hour longevity with average sillage.

This was the very first scent I smelled at this year’s Pitti Fragranze. This was the answer I gave first when anyone asked me what was worth trying. It was the most buzzed about perfume at the fair, rightfully so. The pace and method at which these fragrances have been produced has been vindicated at every turn. Iris Cendre is one of the very best new perfumes of 2015 because of that dedication. Just as at the fair I am not sure I will try anything better this year.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Naomi Goodsir Parfums at Pitti Fragranze 2015.

Mark Behnke

Header photo courtesy of Luckyscent