Colognoisseur Year-End Review Part 3- The Top 25 New Perfumes of the Year

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Every year I make up this list I surprise myself at how much I have tried over the year and how little it represents of the total new perfumes released. This year I sniffed 686 new releases out of 1676 total. I think I am in a great position to try as much as I do and I still missed trying over half of 2015’s new fragrances. It is always a difficult job to winnow my favorites down to a top 25 because there are usually more than that which I will personally own. Here are the bottles which will eventually be gracing my perfume cabinet.

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Naomi Goodsir

Top 5 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)

5. Alaia Paris Almost everything I try comes with a pre-conceived notion of what I think it will smell like. When it came to Alaia I had been told it was supposed to smell like “the smell of hot water falling on cold chalk”. While I still don’t get the chalk the hot and cold contrast is readily apparent to me. Perfumer Marie Salamagne created an olfactory silhouette of steamy ozonic accords which eventually end up on a mixture of precisely balanced white musks to offer the cold as well as the feral. Best designer fragrance of 2015.

4. Memo African Leather– Memo has been one of my favorite brands of the last few years. African Leather is the best of what is becoming a very strong overall collection within Memo, Cuirs Nomades. African Leather is the smell of the savannah, animalic and alive. It is also the culmination of the long partnership between creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet. They have evolved into a formidable fragrance team who I only suspect have even better days ahead.

3. Aftelier BergamossMandy Aftel had a stellar year with two outstanding releases. Vanilla Smoke could easily have slid into this spot except that Bergamoss got here first and it has been an object of fragrant fascination for me over the last half of the year. A solid perfume, Bergamoss carries with it a unique intimacy as applying it in such a tactile way draws you in. What you encounter is as good a modern chypre as I have smelled. The use of flouve absolute provides an ever-shifting frame of reference between the bergamot and the moss. An Eau de Parfum version was released at the end of the year as a limited edition and it is also extremely good but it is the solid version which is the one I adore.

2. Aedes de Venustas Palissandre D’Or– The creative team of Karl Bradl, Robert Gerstner, and Francois Duquesne collaborated with perfumer Alberto Morillas to create a perfume of colored bands. Spices paint a burnt siena, cinnamon and sandalwood provide a lacquered red leading to a base of molten gold as three different cedars come together. It seems obvious that M. Morillas is delighted to be able to use these ingredients when working on a niche release. Palissandre D’Or is a joyous collaboration of passion.

1. Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre For more detail read Part 2. For this piece the most unique iris fragrance in four years.

Here are the rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order

Atelier Cologne Figuier Ardente– Atelier Cologne had a fantastic year with Oud Saphir, Jasmine Angelique, and Musc Imperial all among the best of the line. It was Figuier Ardente which has become my favorite of one of my favorite lines. Creative director Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel works with longtime partner in Cologne Absolue, Ralf Schwieger. What they have done is a time-lapse ripening of a fig from green to luscious decadence. Best fig perfume of the last five years.

Bruno Fazzolari SeyrigBruno Fazzolari was another perfumer with two outstanding releases. Room 237 is the Blair Witch Project in a bottle. Seyrig was an homage to the days of big aldehydes with lilac added in. Fabulous Retro Nouveau release.

DSH Perfumes The Voices of TreesDawn Spencer Hurwitz released an impressive breadth of releases from the abstract to the Retro Nouveau, all of them are noteworthy. The Voices of Trees is the best of them. Following up on last year’s Seve de Pin; The Voices of Trees adds in maple and sycamore to the pinon resin infused pine oil which made Seve de Pin so memorable. The Voices of Trees is better in every way. After much thought I think this is the best perfume Ms. Hurwitz has ever made. It is flawless.

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En Voyage Perfumes Frida– Perfumer Shelley Waddington released a strong slate in 2015, too. Frida is my favorite because within the tuberose there is a fierce heartbeat of passion. Ms. Waddington gets this completely right.

Grandiflora Madigascan Jasmine– Perfumer Michel Roudnitska working with creative director Saskia Havekes has created one of the most interesting jasmine soliflores I own. By using specific notes to explore every facet of a beautifully chosen Madigascan Jasmine I come away with a greater love for this floral than ever before.

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Hermes Equipage Geranium– This third re-examination of a legacy Hermes perfume by Jean-Claude Ellena is the best. Evolving the tack room of Equipage into the leather chair in the library with Equipage Geranium. He has created a relevant version for the current day.

Hiram Green Voyage– Indie perfumer Hiram Green has made the best perfume of his career. Voyage is an exotic spicy leather which morphs into a vanilla gourmand. One of the most intricately constructed perfumes on this list.

John Varvatos Dark Rebel– The John Varvatos line might be the best mass-market men’s fragrance line out there. One reason for that is perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who has overseen all of them. Dark Rebel’s boozy black leather jacket is the best of them all.

Le Labo The Noir 29– Worried that Estee Lauder was going to screw up Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi’s baby? The Noir 29 by perfumer Frank Voelkl feels like the spiritual evolution of 2011’s Santal 33. Except I like it even more.

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M. Micallef AkowaGeoffrey Nejman and Jean-Claude Astier create a perfume which is so overstuffed with ideas it is hard to figure out where to focus first. The most kaleidoscopic perfume of 2015 for its ever shifting nature.

Masque Milano Romanza– Creative Directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi put their faith in young gun Cristiano Canali. What they received was a lush passionate narcissus perfume which touches my soul every time I wear it.

Miu Miu– Miu Miu led the charge of the mainstream perfumes over the last quarter of 2015. Prior to that it was looking bleak. Perfumer Daniela Andrier made a perfume which seemed classic and contemporary at the same time.

Neela Vermeire Creations PicholaNeela Vermeire working with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has made one of the most breathtakingly beautiful tuberose perfumes I own. Mainly because it is a tightly green tuberose which explodes into full flower with a bang. I described it like a Bollywood dance number breaking out in a garden. I don’t have a better way to explain it now.

Nishane Istanbul Afrika Olifant– Creative directors Mert Guzel and Murat Katran debuted their Nishane Istanbul line this year. Afrika Oliphant is the best of the brand as it combines real animalic raw materials with the synthetic musks meant to replace that material. Perfumer Jorge Lee makes something which feels like a cyborg version of the feral.

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Olfactive Studio PanoramaCeline Verleure working with perfumer Clement Gavarry would make a perfume of fierce verdancy. With nothing more eye-catching than the wasabi accord which greets you upon spritzing this on. The most singular artistic statement Olfactive Studio has ever made.

Raymond Matts PashayRaymond Matts’ Aura de Parfum was a collection I greatly admired. I was first attracted to Kaiwe but over the year Pashay has become my favorite. Perfumer Christophe Laudamiel creates a magnetic salty skin accord using Kalamata olive as the linchpin. Pashay is a triumph of composition.

Rubini Fundamental– Fundamental was a true team effort of Andrea Rubini, perfumer Cristiano Canali, historian Ermano Picco, and packaging sorceress Francesca Gotti. They have made one of the strongest debut fragrances of the last few years. This is why I love perfume.

Slumberhouse KisteJosh Lobb’s most approachable creation. A lazy Savannah summer evening with a pitcher of sweet tea sweating on the table. He captured the decaying fecundity of the thickly growing plants along with a bespoke tobacco accord. I get lost within its lunatic embrace every time.

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Stephane Humbert Lucas Mortal Skin– Decay is a theme in this magnificent perfume by Stephane Humbert Lucas. From its inky incense opening to a battle of entropy in the base between an accord of ambergris and labdanum versus civet and musk. It is a battle where the winner changes in a kinetic way over hours. This snake has me in its coils.

Strangelove NYC meltmyheart– The second release from Strangelove NYC. Creative director Helena Christensen worked with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to make a chocolate, oud and orris perfume with an unusual fragility for something made up of those notes. This has been one of my most worn perfumes of the last few months.

The Final Cuts: The 18 Which Just Missed the Top 25: Amouage Opus IX, Arquiste Nanban, Atelier des Ors Lune Feline, Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Bleu, Byredo Rose of No Man’s Land, Cartier Oud Radieux, Chanel Misia, Charenton Macerations Asphalt Rainbow, Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom, Jul et Mad Nea, Jul et Mad Garuda, Maria Candida Gentile Elephant and Roses, Olivier Durbano Chrysolithe, Orlov Star of the Season, Pierre Guillaume Mojito Chypre, Roja Parfums A Goodnight Kiss, Unum LAVS, and Vilhelm Black Citrus.

That is it for 2015. I will rest up for a couple days and begin 2016 hoping it is as good as 2015 was.

Part 1 was my general overview of 2015.

Part 2 was my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Neela Vermeire Creations Pichola- White Flower Joy Club

The collaboration between Neela Vermeire, of Neela Vermeire Creations, and perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has been a pretty spectacular success. Over the course of five fragrances they have explored much of Mme Vermeire’s Indian heritage. There is a lot to like about the collection but four of the first five releases definitely are on the deeper, more intense side of the perfumed spectrum. My personal favorite of the line is the one which plays against this, Bombay Bling. When I first wrote about it I described it as a Bollywood production number in a bottle. Bombay Bling wears its infectious spirit on its sleeve. I’ve been wondering when Mme Vermeire and M. Duchaufour might feel like getting a bit more playful again. The sixth release, Pichola, is that return to joy.

The name comes from the lake at the heart of city of Udaipur. There is a lot of talk, in the press release, about reflections on the lake and regal flowers. Reading that I expected to get another deep white floral like most of the rest of the collection. While the imagery is functional it does not describe the way Pichola wears on my skin. There is a moment in the very earliest going where Pichola does seem like it is going to be serious perfume. Just like every Bollywood production you’ve ever seen all of a sudden huge handful of flowers explode through the hard shell and the dance number is on. The transition from tight green opening into explosive transparent white flowers raining down is beautiful.

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M. Duchaufour creates a hard green barrier consisting of cardamom, juniper, saffron, cinnamon, and, clementine. The early moments are wound as tight as an accountant’s nerves during tax season. This lasts a very short time before a troupe of white flowers come dancing through the stiff upper lip of Pichols forcing it to break into a smile. The winsome star of our show is a fabulous fresh tuberose absolute. Most hear tuberose and expect intensity. Of late there have been a lot of wan pretty tuberoses scrubbed clean and made insipid for the effort. The tuberose M. Duchaufour employs here has an incredible expansive quality without becoming overwhelming. You are never unaware of its presence but the other florals like orange blossom, ylang-ylang, and jasmine have plenty of space to dance happily alongside. It is in this phase of floral fandango where Pichola settles for hours. When it finally starts to move on it is time to rest from our exertions on a sweet woody bed of benzoin and sandalwood.

Pichola has 8-10 hour longevity and below average sillage.

I am so happy to see Mme Vermeire return to a lighter style of construction. There is so much positive emotion on display it is infectious. I was uplifted each day I wore Pichola. Yes I want to smell good but some days I want to also have a barely suppressed laugh to go along with that, Pichola does that for me.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Neela Vermeire Creations.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Esxence 2015 Final Wrap-Up Part 2- The Top 10 New Fragrances I Tried

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This year’s Esxence was bigger than ever with 150 brands displaying their perfumes. That made it even more challenging to cover everything that was there. Honestly even with three days I am sure there is a new brand or new release I missed. I was able to try 76 new perfumes over my time in Milan. The following are the ten I am having the hardest time forgetting after returning home, in alphabetical order.

Aedes de Venustas Palissandre D’Or by Alberto Morillas- The Aedes de Venustas line of perfumes, creatively overseen by Robert Gerstner and Karl Bradl, has been on a winning streak since their debut three years ago. With this fifth entry M. Morillas turns in, perhaps, the most translucent of the collection. It is a fascinating study of woods that never get heavy. Once you get past the floral top it is a dance of three kinds of cedar and Sri Lankan sandalwood which lingers in my memory.

Jardins D’Ecrivains Marlowe by Anais Biguine– Mme Biguine has returned to the classics after last year’s modern Junky. Inspired by Shakespeare contemporary Christopher Marlowe, Mme Biguine turns in a floral soliloquy around tuberose and osmanthus.

Jul et Mad Garuda by Luca Maffei– Creative Directors Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica tapped Sig. Maffei to do two of the three new releases in the Les White collection, Nea is the other. Garuda was meant to exude the warmth of burnished gold in the sunlight. Cambodian oud along with saffron and rum provide the warm glow desired. I just closed my eyes and let it envelop me.

Le Galion Aesthete by Vanina MurracioleNicolas Chabot has finished re-inventing the past with Le Galion and now he sets sail for the future with new releases. One of those new releases by Mme Murraciole feels like it belongs to a previous era. Aesthete is the scent of animalic leather and oud combined. It imparts a give and take between these two powerful notes and this tug-of-war is what makes Aesthete so much fun to wear.

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Neela Vermeire Creations Pichola by Bertrand Duchaufour– This team of Neela Vermeire and M. Duchaufour have been exploring the deeper waters of perfumery. As one who loves the exuberance of Bombay Bling I was pleased to see that sense of playfulness return in Pichola. Don’t be fooled by the opening because two-fisted handfuls of flowers burst through the tight green start and break into a Bollywood dance number.

Olfactive Studio Panorama by Clement Gavarry– When creative director Celine Verleure told me a few months ago that Panorama featured a wasabi accord I can’t say I was overly excited. As I approached the stand to try it I was still a bit apprehensive. Once I smelled it all of that concern evaporated. M. Gavarry balances the unusual wasabi inside a veritable green brigade of fig leaf, violet leaf, and galbanum. It adds modernity and creates something beautifully unique.

Orlov Paris Star of the Season by Dominique Ropion– All five of the perfumes from this new line are based on famous diamonds. M. Ropion is really stretching across the entire line but in Star of the Season he takes the duet of rose and iris and places them on a vanilla tinted bed of sandalwood. This is perfumery as classic as the diamond it is named after.

rubini fundamental

Rubini Fundamental by Cristiano Canali– My favorite new discovery of the entire fair. Founder and creative director Andrea Rubini along with his team of Sig. Canali, Ermano Picco and Francesca Gotti delivered a real team effort. From the ultra-sleek look of the recycled Fiberglas packaging to the mix of new aromachemicals with classic ingredients this is the complete package.

Stephane Humbert Lucas Mortal Skin by Stephane Humbert Lucas– M. Lucas said Mortal Skin was meant to be a brightly colored snake with incandescent eyes drawing me in. Most often that kind of rhetoric falls flat. In Mortal Skin it rings true with beauty and decay featuring in equal measure. I think I will be spending a lot of time with this one trying to tease out its secrets.  

X-Ray Profumo Amnesia by Ralf Schwieger– As I was flying to Esxence I posted about my favorite new aquatics. Once I met creative director Ray Burns and he showed me Amnesia, named after an Ibiza nightclub, I now have another new aquatic to wear. Hr. Schwieger uses a seaweed and sea salt accord as the nucleus of a night of beachside abandon come to life. Around that very pungent accord floats waterlily, fruit, and cloves. The night is slowly giving way to the dawn but the party never ends.

That’s the end of my Esxence reports for 2015. My very grateful thanks to Silvio Levi and Caterina Gianoli for having me back. See you all next year.

Mark Behnke