New Perfume Review Jul et Mad Bella Donna- Ferronniere Magnolia

Growing up in the south one of my favorite expressions was describing a formidable woman as a “steel magnolia”. The words are meant to convey a woman who is a combination of femininity and strength of character to withstand all that life throws at them. It means that even if the world was falling apart around them their outward appearance and courtesy was flawless. The phrase became more widely known after the movie of the same name was released in 1989. It may be parochial but that movie never captures the combination of gentility and grit the actual steel magnolias I met had.

La belle ferronniere by Leonardo da Vinci (c. 1490-1496)

The new releases for the Jul et Mad Les Whites collection reminded me of this because one of them was inspired by the Leonardo da Vinci “La belle ferronniere” Ferronniere translates to iron worker and so the picture is iron worker’s woman. The perfume inspired by this is called Bella Donna with creative direction by Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard working with perfumer Luca Maffei. All three of the made a trip to the Louvre, where it hangs, prior to beginning work on Bella Donna. They would decide Bella Donna would be a contrast of the rigidity seen outwardly matched by the warmth of the passion underneath. That passion is symbolized by a central floral accord shaped around magnolia.

Luca Maffei, Julien Blanchard, and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard (l.to r.) getting inspired at the Louvre

Bella Donna opens with a zingy ginger and mulberry top accord. It is an energetic fleeting accord which I would have liked to have stick around a tiny bit longer. The florals are in a rush to get here and so they run over it with magnolia leading the charge. Magnolia can be a heady floral and most of the time perfumers choose to bring it down a notch by using woods to rein it in. Sig. Maffei is going the other direction turning it loose to form the nucleus of the heart of Bella Donna. He delicately powders it with iris and rose, adds heft with ylang-ylang, and uses jasmine to expand it all. Once it is all together this is a huge floral accord combining beauty and presence. The base is the warmth of benzoin, opopanax, and sandalwood.

Bella Donna has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Bella Donna expertly captures the idea that within femininity can also lie iron; or steel. Which makes Bella Donna the perfume of a Ferronniere Magnolia.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Jul et Mad.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Olibere Savannah’s Heart- Blixen’s Heart

The idea of visiting Africa is one of those bucket list items I have yet to cross off. Ever since seeing Born Free in 1966 the idea of the wide-open spaces of Africa have held my fascination. Alas it seems my experience will remain through documentaries and writings. Like many one of the most vivid descriptions comes from Karen Blixen’s book “Out of Africa” which should not be confused with the movie of the same name. The movie focused on Ms. Blixen’s romantic entanglements against an African backdrop. The book tells of the day-to-day lessons she learned while operating a coffee plantation in Kenya. The stories related there have an authenticity of someone who lived there while trying to understand that which was surrounding her. The new perfume Olibere Savannah’s Heart reminded me of the book.

Marjorie Olibere

Marjorie Olibere began her fragrance brand in spring 2015 with five releases. I’ve only recently spent some time with those early releases. My favorite of those was perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour’s Balinesque. A mixture of spice, bamboo, ocean, flowers, and woods. It is a fast-moving aquatic Oriental. Mme Olibere showed within the debut collection her desire to give her creative team a lot of freedom. When it works there is much to admire and when it doesn’t quite come together it is a noble attempt to not be like everything else.

Luca Maffei

For Savannah’s Heart Mme Olibere collaborates with perfumer Luca Maffei. Sig. Maffei forms a fragrance which captures the way my imagination thinks the coffee plantation from “Out of Africa” smells like.

Savannah’s Heart opens on a strong combination of labdanum through which rhubarb provides an equally strong contrast. The rhubarb comes off as slightly sour and less earthy than in other applications. That acerbic nature sets the stage for the focal note of Savannah’s Heart, Arabica coffee Jungle Essence. I have spoken in the past about the supercritical fluid extraction technique used by Mane for their Jungle Essence raw materials. In this case it is like a laser cut version of coffee. Strong, slightly oily, a bit sour, and very rich. To add an even sharper perspective Sig. Maffei surrounds it with Norlimabnol. The dry woody aromachemical lifts up the coffee while making it more diffuse. It rests on a sandalwood and vanilla foundation. Both provide some alternative to the sour facets which had preceded them.

Savannah’s Heart has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I applaud Mme Olibere and Sig. Maffei for finding a unique take on the African experience that it could have easily been called Blixen’s Heart too.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Olibere.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nobile 1942 1001- Luca’s Arabian Night

When it comes to inspiration for perfumes Scheherazade and the Arabian Nights has probably inspired as many perfumes as there were tales told in the story. If fragrances are tales told by the creative team then especially in the Oriental genre every perfumer should have the opportunity to enthrall a wearer for one night. Perfumer Luca Maffei takes his turn with Nobile 1942 1001.

One of the things I have admired about the Nobile 1942 creative team of Massimo Nobile and Stefania Giannino is since 2014 they have taken the brand in a new direction. It mainly consists of taking the well-known fragrance forms and giving them a contemporary shine. It has been an up and down effort but when there have been ups they have been very good. Working with Sig. Maffei they decided on a soft Oriental theme for 1001.

Luca Maffei

One of their inspirations was the written word. Sig. Maffei includes a papyrus focal point upon which he writes in notes of spices, flowers, and woods. The modern part of this is many Orientals take as part of their being to carry an intensity. 1001 is constructed to be a compelling soft-spoken voice of a storyteller inviting you near enough to hear.

A soft whisper of spices from a piquant susurrus. Ginger, cardamom, pink pepper, and saffron are like offerings given on an altar as each finds a place in the top accord. The watery green woodiness of papyrus arrives next. Sig. Maffei then uses the slightly spicy woody quality of turmeric along with rose to form the place from which the tale is being told along with the page it is written on. It is an abstraction of a scroll. The more traditional components of Orientals are in the base. Sandalwood, amber, vanilla, and musk end 1001 in a familiar place; which is where all well-told tales should conclude.

1001 has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I think the softness of 1001 turns it into a rare office friendly Oriental. By choosing to go very soft it doesn’t skimp on the most important characteristics of the genre. Instead it allows Sig. Maffei to tell his tale of an Arabian Night with a beautiful whisper.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

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 L’Oree Du Bois- Ode to Gold

We are told in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, “All that glitters is not gold”. When it comes to golden notes in perfume they tend not to glitter they more often glow. In Fath’s Essentials L’Oree Du Bois a study in glowing gold fragrance is proof of this.

Rita Haywoth cutting the cake at her wedding to Aly Khan (r.) in 1949

For 2017 the creative director for Fath’s Esentials, Rania Naim, collaborated with perfumer Luca Maffei on four new releases. The collection is defined overall by capturing the “la Joie de Vivre” that was designer Jacques Fath’s guiding light. L’Oree du Bois is the name of the wedding dress and trousseau M. Fath designed for actress Rita Heyworth on her 1949 marriage to Aly Khan. When you look at the wedding dress in the picture above you see a minimal aesthetic applied to a formal garment. It carries understated streamlined sophistication. All four of the new Fath’s Essentials designed by Sig. Maffei share that design aesthetic. For L’Oree Du Bois he finds a way of combining golden notes which glow but also finds room for some spiciness and bitterness to provide some bite.

Luca Maffei (l.) and Rania Naim

The focal point of the top accord is yellow mandarin and mimosa. The source of the mimosa is golden mimosa which is a version of the floral species which blooms in the winter. When these blooms capture sunlight, they illuminate in to tiny glowing orbs. In the fragrance, the mandarin plays the part of the sunlight transforming the mimosa into pulsing life. There is some neroli, ylang-ylang, and broom here but the main supporting note in the top accord is saffron. It disperses itself through the mandarin and mimosa like copper strands. A lively spicy intermezzo of cumin and cinnamon sets up the use of a honey raw material which has been isolated to give it a corona of bitter sweetness around the more usual viscous goldenness. The base is mainly a creamy sandalwood which supports all the glowy goodness that preceded it.

L’Oree Du Bois has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

One thing about Sig. Maffei is his desire to find a way to add new raw materials into his fragrances. The honey in the heart is that innovation. Sig. Maffei uses it as part of an ode to gold that is L’Oree Du Bois.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret- The Shoulder Season

I’ve mentioned in the past we had family friends who had a proper expansive garden. Almost all my scent memories of flowers and gardens come from playing in that garden as a child. One of my favorite times in that garden was the shoulder season when spring has not quite given way to the relentless heat of summer. As my friend Buddy and I would run towards the garden the scent of the flowers at full bloom would reach our noses a split second before the green leaves and grass joined in. It was the moment when nature herself was a powerhouse floral fragrance.

Elisabetta Perris

One of the earliest floral powerhouse perfumes was 1912’s Houbigant Quelques Fleurs. It is not as celebrated as many of the other contemporary perfumes of the time but perfumer Robert Bienaime was trendsetting even though others would have more success with what was initiated in Quelques Fleurs. First is the use of aldehydes. Quelques Fleurs was one of the earliest to use them. Second was to trend away from single flower focal points. Most perfumes chose one floral ingredient followed by many supporting notes. M. Bienaime assembled an all-star floral chorus of lily, jasmine, rose, and carnation. Quelques Fleurs is an unsung innovator of the early days of modern perfumery.

In 2009 The Perris family acquired Houbigant and under the aegis of Elisabetta Perris a consistent effort has been made to honor the past while also making Houbigant relevant to the present day. Ms. Perris has done an excellent job by not hurrying the process. It has been a steady release of perfumes which have the style of the original Houbigant perfumes. As for the innovation Ms. Perris has chosen to work with perfumers who like to try new things. In 2015, she collaborated with perfumer Luca Maffei on Cologne Intense. Now she returns to Sig. Maffei to ask for Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret.

Luca Maffei

I imagine that a perfumer might take a deep breath before agreeing to do a new version of one of the classics. Except in my interactions with Sig. Maffei I have seen his affection for the historical. I have also seen his affection for wanting to write some of his own. Which means he tends to leave his fingerprints on anything he works on. The same is true for Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret.

Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret starts with a fabulous top accord of bergamot, mandarin, and neroli. The original opened similarly except the neroli plays a much more prominent role in the early going. This is a green indolic neroli which sets the stage for Sig. Maffei’s version of an all-star floral chorus as he uses magnolia, rose, and narcissus. This is an expertly blended accord of all three with the neroli providing background along with ylang-ylang and jasmine. Then a modern version of the vintage ambery musk base is composed of sandalwood, amber, and synthetic musks.

Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have been spending some time with the original Quelques Fleurs in preparation to write this review. I found its power to be overwhelming at times. Which makes sense as the idea of how much is too much was just beginning to be explored in the early days of modern perfumery. Over a hundred years later perfumers have a much better idea of what is the correct balance. Which is why I prefer Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret to the original. It is just better balanced with all the same presence. As I enter the shoulder season this year Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret is going to carry me back to my childhood in the garden.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Houbigant.

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

New Perfume Review Coolife Le Sixieme Parfum- Inward Iris

There are times when a new perfume brand arrives and it fails to make an impression on me. Over the first three releases of the brand Coolife this was my experience. Founders and creative directors Carole Beaupre and Pauline Rochas, working with perfumer Patricia Choux, made some workmanlike well-made fragrances which failed to stand out from the crowd. This initial collection is based on The Seven Chakras with one release for each Chakra. It wasn’t until the fourth release, Le Quatrieme Parfum, where their inspiration and the fragrance began to connect with me. Now we are up to the latest release, Le Sixieme Parfum, which repeated the overall experience the creators were going for.

Carole Beaupre and Pauline Rochas

The Chakra inspiration for Le Sixieme Parfum is Ajna, which “allows us to access the inner guidance which springs from the depths of our being.” I take it as that ability to look inward to find some serenity. Perfume has always been a large part of that process for me so a perfume which would enhance that form of meditation could be great. For this perfume, perfumer Luca Maffei was asked to compose this contemplative fragrance.

Luca Maffei

Sig. Maffei chose a fabulously opulent orris concrete as the key note. The best orris versions recall the fact that the fragrance is extracted from the roots and not the flowers. It can make it much less powdery than other iris fragrances while literally grounding it with the earth these roots rest in. This is the material at the heart of Le Sixieme Parfum acting as a fragrant focal point.

Le Sixieme Parfum opens with pink pepper. In this case Sig. Maffei enhances the herbal nature of this ingredient providing a citrus contrast with lemon to uplift the pink pepper somewhat. Then the orris concrete comes forward. As I mentioned above this has a different quality than the typical powdery versions more commonly encountered. The partner Sig. Maffei uses for this is an equally rich osmanthus. Early on the apricot nature of osmanthus makes this a bit of a dried fruit and root accord. Then over time the leathery nature comes forward which really enhances that rootiness. The osmanthus’ dual nature makes it an ideal companion because both sides of its nature work flawlessly with this version of orris. As Sig. Maffei moves into the base the botanical leather of osamnthus evolves into a full on soft leather accord. Concurrently patchouli in its darker earthier form also carries the orris forward into the base where a clean woody frame of cedar and musks complete this.

Le Sixieme Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

In choosing Sig. Maffei to formulate Le Sixieme Parfum I think he was an inspired choice for a “Third Eye Chakra” because he is one of the more instinctual perfumers working. He is one who I think relies on his sense of what feels right to him. It is probably one of the reasons he has stood out among this next generation of perfumers. In Le Sixieme Parfum he has created an iris which asks you to look deeply inward where you will find that fragrance can unlock your third eye.

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

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2017 Hopes and Wishes

4

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

Colognoisseur 2016 Year-End Review Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, & Brand of the Year

As I mentioned in Part 1 2016 is the beginning of a generational shift in perfumery. The winners I am going to highlight next are all emblematic of that kind of change.

Perfume of the Year: Masque Milano L’Attesa– One of the emerging initiatives over the course of 2016 has been the confidence owners and creative directors have placed in young perfumers. For a brand, it is safer to round up one of the more established names. It takes a bit of faith to place the success of your business in the hands of an emerging artist. The team behind Masque Milano, Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, have taken on this philosophy wholeheartedly. Particularly over the last four releases since 2013; Tango by Cecile Zarokian, Russian Tea by Julien Rasquinet, and Romanza by Cristiano Canali, began the trend. This year’s release L’Attesa by Luca Maffei took it to a new level.

Riccardo Tedeschi, Luca Maffei, and Alessandro Brun (l. to r.)

I spent time with the creative team when they unveiled L’Attesa at Esxence 2016. I think when you do something creative you have a sense when you have done great work. That day in Milan all three men radiated that kind of confidence; with good reason. Sig. Maffei would combine three sources of iris to provide a strong core of the central note. Early on there is a champagne accord that is not meant to be the bubbly final product but the yeasty fermentation stage. It turns the powdery iris less elegant but more compelling for its difference. Through a white flower heart to a leathery finish L’Attesa is as good as it gets.

Cecile Zarokian with Puredistance Sheiduna

Perfumer of the Year: Cecile Zarokian– Majda Bekkali Mon Nom est Rouge, in 2012, was the first perfume by Cecile Zarokian which made me think she was something special. Over the years since then she has done some spectacular work but 2016 was an exceptional year. Mme Zarokian produced thirteen new releases for seven different brands. I chose her because of the breadth of the work she turned in over the year. I am reasonably certain that this kind of output has rarely been matched. The pinnacle of this group was her re-formulation of Faths Essentials Green Water. Mme Zarokian accomplished the near impossible by formulating a 2016 version which is as good as the original. She did this because she understood what made the original was its ridiculous concentration of neroli oil. She convinced creative director Rania Naim to spend the money for this now precious material to be replicated in the same concentration. This made Green Water amazingly true to its name.

She would recreate a Persian feast in Parfums MDCI Fetes Persanes. Picking up on some of the same themes she would infuse some of the gourmand elements into a rich oud in Making of Cannes Magie du Desert.  She modernized the oud in Hayari New Oud. In Uer Mi OR+Cashmere she creates a hazelnut rum cocktail. Laboratorio Olfattivo Nerotic goes for a more narcotic effect. Finally working with creative director Jan Ewoud Vos they conspired to reinterpret the Oriental creating a contemporary version in Puredistance Sheiduna.

Every perfume she made this year was worth smelling. As this next generation of perfumers moves into the next phase Mme Zarokian is going to be right there in the front pushing perfumery forward. For this joie de vivre about perfumery Cecile Zarokian is my Perfumer of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Luca Maffei, Quentin Bisch, Christine Nagel, Jerome Epinette, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, and Antonio Gardoni.

Creative Director of the Year: Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes- For the ten years plus I’ve been writing about perfume I have chanted a single mantra; embrace difference, don’t play it safe, stake out an artistic vision and stick with it. There are way too few who embrace this. Because it isn’t easy there is a graveyard of some who tried and failed. All of which makes what Victor Wong has been doing with his brand Zoologist Perfumes more admirable. Two years ago, he started Zoologist Perfumes making the transition from enthusiast to owner/creative director. He wanted to work with some of the most talented artisanal perfumers to produce his perfumes. What is so refreshing about this approach is he has been working with many of the most recognizable artisans providing them outside creative direction for one of the few times. What it has elicited from these perfumers is often among the best work they have produced. For the three 2016 releases Bat with Ellen Covey, Macaque with Sarah McCartney, and Nightingale with Tomoo Inaba this has been particularly true. Bat is one of the perfumes which was in the running for my Perfume of the Year. Macaque and Nightingale do not play it safe in any way. This makes for a perfume brand which does not look for the lowest common denominator but asks if there is something more beautiful in unfettered collaboration. For Victor Wong and Zoologist Perfumes 2016 answers this with a resounding yes which is why he is my choice for Creative Director of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Jan Ahlgren (Vilhelm Parfumerie), Ben Gorham (Byredo), Roberto Drago (Laboratorio Olfattivo), and Carlos Huber (Arquiste).

Brand of the Year: Hermes– In 2003 Hermes in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena would begin his tenure. Over the next thirteen years his overall collection for the brand has defined a modern aesthetic which now has become synonymous with the brand as much as silk scarves and fine leather goods. When it was announced two years ago, Christine Nagel would begin the transition to becoming the new in-house perfumer there was some concern. I was not one of those who had any worries. Mme Nagel felt like a natural evolution from M. Ellena. 2016 proved my surmise to be true as M. Ellena released his presumed final two fragrances for the brand, Eau de Neroli Dore and Hermessence Muguet Porcelaine while Mme Nagel released her first two, Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate and Galop D’Hermes. The passing of the torch could not have gone smoother. Hermes is in great hands as the next generation takes over. That this was accomplished so beautifully effortless is why Hermes is my Brand of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Byredo, Vilhelm Parfumerie, Tauer Perfumes/Tauerville, and Zoologist Perfumes.

Part 1 was my broad overview of the year yesterday.

Part 3 tomorrow will be my Top 25 new perfumes of 2016.

Mark Behnke