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

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 Masque Milano Times Square- One Dollah, One Dollah, One Dollah

The evolution of big cities is a fascinating thing to observe. There is no more compelling history than the transformation of Times Square from one of the worst neighborhoods in New York City to the place where the most selfies on the planet are taken. I started visiting New York City regularly in the late 1980’s. Thankfully I am a big guy and so I was able to walk fearlessly through the porn theatres, drug dealers, and peep shows with their barkers calling out, “girls, girls, girls, one dollah, one dollah, one dollah”. No bigger lie was being told than that one. By the time I started working in the NYC Metro Area in 1994 the current Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, in association with Disney began an aggressive campaign to evict all the gritty qualities to provide a family-friendly heart of Manhattan. Over twenty years later you have to know where to look to see the few holdovers from the dangerous times.

Riccardo Tedeschi (l.) and Alessandro Brun

The creative directors for Masque Milano, Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, have decided to revive that last gasp of “Times Scare” circa 1993 in their newest release Times Square. They chose perfumer Bruno Jovanovic to collaborate with on this project. Each perfume in the Masque Milano line is part of their fragrant drama and carry an act and scene number. Times Square is the fourth and final scene of Act 1. This is a bold dynamic fragrance where the team captures the garishness of Times Square just before the scrub brushes arrive.

Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini

When I walked into Times Square for the first time the neon was what dazzled me. It was a bit like visual overload. It carried my eyes to the bright colors and motion. The opening moment of Times Square is much like that. It is so strong I suspect that, like many tourists who made the trip to the edge of the area, a lot will run away. If you have the desire to step into the intensity you will find cheap lipstick, blowsy florals, steam, leather, and rubber all coming together to form a decadent beauty.

Bruno Jovanovic

Times Square opens with a resounding pop of violet, iris, and hazelnut. M. Jovanovic captures the gritty nature with intensity. I loved it because it captures that “girls, girls girls” quality. That really comes out as the iris sorts itself into a lipstick accord to go with tuberose providing the over-perfumed aura of the hip-cocked streetwalker sizing you up. Osmanthus and styrax provide the leather and latex of the BDSM shop as you pick up your pace before you instead follow a desire to step inside. As you cross the street steam billows up from the manhole covers as the barkers call from behind you, “one dollah, one dollah, one dollah”. You reach the safety of your hotel room as the sandalwood provides a soothing island for your jangled psyche.

Times Square has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have congratulated Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi, in the past, for their ability to follow their vision while finding perfumers to realize it. Times Square might be the best example of this. It is the most artistic perfume in the Masque Milano collection. It sets out to capture the grainy 9mm film world of Times Square in 1993 and succeeds. It is an unsettling fragrance as that place and time were if you traveled through it. Wearing it for a whole day I spent more time with the fragrance than I ever did in the actual location. With the fragrance, I discovered that given time garish neon, over-perfumed hookers, and leather and latex carry an odd kind of beauty. This is a perfume one should try; some will run away but others will find the same things I did. So “girls, girls, girls, one dollah, one dollah, one dollah, Masque Milano Times Square ovah heah!”

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Masque Milano.

Mark Behnke