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

Pitti Fragranze 2014 Day 1 Wrap-up- Old Friends, New Tricks, and a Mozart Ball

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Buongiorno Perfumistas!

Every perfume event I go to it seems like the first day is all about checking in with those who have become friends over the years. This began on the sidewalk outside the Stazione Leopolda in Florence, Italy the site of Pitti Fragranze 2014. Francois Duquesne emerged from his cab and I asked him if there were any new Aedes de Venustas fragrances coming. He pulled out a sample vial of Copal Azur the new release coming in the fall. This is composed by the man I call The High Priest of Resins, Bertrand Duchaufour. Copal Azur is one of the most resinous fragrances I have smelled in a long time and it is tuned expertly by a perfumer who seemingly can do this at will.

They finally let us inside and I began by walking the entire room to see what is here. After my reconnaissance was done and many hugs and handshakes exchanged I stopped to introduce myself to Andy Tauer who I met in person for the first time. We discussed the Sotto La Luna line and I asked what was next and he told me the formulas for the next two are finished. We have Sotto La Luna Hyacinth and Sotto La Luna Tuberose to look forward to. Based on our conversation I am particularly excited to see how Hyacinth is realized.

Next stop was with Jeroen Oude Sogtoen who was presenting the new bottle designs for Mona di Orio Perfumes. One thing I was delighted to see was Oud has been renamed Oudh Osmanthus. Mme di Orio used osmanthus as the perfect unusual floral foil to oud at a time when too many perfumes were just throwing it in to fragrances with no thought. Oudh Osmanthus showed there was a different, and better, way to go. The new bottles feel like they were designed to nestle in your hand perfectly. Finally I had the opportunity to try the new release Myrrh Casati by perfumer Melanie Leroux. Mme Leroux captures the shadow play Mme di Orio was known for and this looks to be a worthy continuation of the legacy. One last thing for those who were missing the original fragrances Lux and Nuit Noire are now both available again in the new packaging.

As I walked into the next room the team from Masque Milano were standing in front of a giant samovar. It will be no surprise to you that the fifth fragrance from Masque Milano is called Russian Tea. The perfumer is Julien Rasquinet who made this his last work as an independent perfumer before accepting a job at IFF. While I fully expect M. Rasquinet to produce more great fragrances Russian Tea was a great one to finish this phase of his life as a perfumer. It is smoky and it has a surprising grace note of mint which works surprisingly well. I kept returning to this strip throughout the day and the development and the way it evolved rewarded me every time. I am looking forward to wearing this on my return home.

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I then attended two presentations in the conference hall that were back to back. The first was from Mane all about their supercritical fluid extraction technique named Jungle Essence. This form of extraction gathers all a natural source has to give without having to be heated up. There is a video they used to show this process that I hope I can share with you in the future because it did the best job of showing how the process works. The best part was they passed around examples of raw materials captured via Jungle Essence and more traditional ways. It was striking how much more nuanced the Jungle Essences were, especially when comparing side by side. For me the most surprising was the difference between cardamom absolute and cardamom Jungle Essence. The absolute has a raw green quality which the Jungle Essence has but it is much softer.

The second presentation was by perfumer Maria Candida Gentile who presented the three fragrances in the “Il Volo del Calabrone” (The Flight of the Bumblebee) collection. Using three different versions of beeswax form three different countries she complemented each one with different notes. In Kitrea it is lemon. In Leuco it is tuberose. In Synconium it is fig. The different style of honey is apparent on first sniff, it really adds a dimension to a note which can be difficult to balance.

On my way down the hall I met the lovely Valerie “Cookie Queen” Sperrer. Now you would think I would say she gave me a cookie but she also had some new tricks to share and instead I got a Mozartkugel or as we call it in English a Mozart Ball. It was yummy after dinner tonight. Thanks Valerie.

Final stop of Day 1 was to meet the team at Grossmith and try the new Fortnum & Mason exclusive, Sylvan Song which is a fabulous floral fantasy as only Grossmith can do as they continue to create perfumes which feel like classics reinvigorated. I think I might have to arrange for someone to visit Fortnum & Mason for me as this is truly exclusive and will not be sold anywhere else.

It was off to dinner as I rode into a beautiful sunset over the Arno river.

I’ll be back tomorrow as I concentrate on the section of the exposition called Spring which has gathered a number of new brands.

Until then Ciao Perfumistas!

Mark Behnke