Colognoisseur Best of 2018: Part 1- Overview

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2018 was a year in which the perfume companies more firmly tuned their fragrances towards a younger generation. I tried 701 new perfume releases this past year. If there was one dominant trend it was towards transparent styles; especially in the mainstream sector. It also meant simpler constructs using three to five ingredients. The difficulty I had with this is the great majority of these perfumes fell apart with any scrutiny. Too often transparent minimalism could be summarized succinctly as insipid. Slightly more charitable it was a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes as the brands tried to sell more and more “nothing there” product. The best (worst?) example was the twenty-five releases, at one time, from clothing brand H&M. They didn’t even disguise their attempt to push out a wave of poorly made fragrance. It was a bad joke which made me wish I had only tried 676 new perfumes this year.

Transparent New Clothes for The Emperor

I have had some problems embracing the whole trend because I believe its success requires a very skilled perfumer. Proof of that would come early in the fall with the release of Cartier Carat as in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent produced a magnificently kinetic transparent floral. It would be followed by the McQueen Collection of soliflore-like constructions employing some of the best perfumers to show the potential of this style of perfume making.

Another emerging trend is the rise of gourmand style perfumes. This might be the last genre of fragrance which has not been terribly overexposed. It means it is fertile ground for brands to make a statement. It also is a style which adapts well to the transparency. Jovoy Remember Me by perfumer Cecile Zarokian was an audacious attempt to push the form forward. I think we will see a spectacular contemporary gourmand soon.

If the perceived banality of the mainstream releases was getting me down the independent perfumers were here to rescue me. They were ready to give me the jump start I needed to throw off my malaise.

Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes would oversee the funk of Hyrax with perfumer Sven Pritzkoleit and the prehistoric jungle fire of Tyrannosaurus Rex by perfumer Antonio Gardoni.

Nicole Miller of Blackbird sent out the skanky banana of Y06-S and the oddly compelling plum gourmand Anemone.

Amber Jobin of Aether Arts Perfume created The AI Series which was experimental perfumery of the highest order.

Hiram Green produced a birch tar overload in Hyde a complete opposite of the enticing tobacco and honey of Slowdive.

Of course, 2018 ended with the loss of one of the great independent perfumers, Vero Kern. As that happened, I was reminded of the old saying “when a door closes a window opens”. The window might be looking toward Turkish perfumer Omer Ipecki and his Pekji brand. Mr. Ipecki like Fr. Kern took years to perfect his perfumes before releasing them. He listened to his own artistic vision while displaying an independent swagger. I know I’m laying a large burden on Mr. Ipecki’s shoulders I am hopeful he will bear it with good humor.

If there was a disappointment it was from the niche brands. Many of them safely stayed within their well-trodden lanes. I feel somewhat churlish for saying this because there were many I liked, but very few of them tried anything different. As I looked back it seemed like too many of the brands found a successful space which they continued within. As I think will become apparent over the next two days there were few which stood out.

I still retain my excitement about perfume as it exists in 2018. As I reveal my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director and Brand of the Year tomorrow and the Top 25 new perfumes the day after these are the reasons why I feel that way.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Pekji Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek- Woods, Wool, and Barns

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Continuing my reviews, begun yesterday, of the debut releases from Pekji by independent perfumer Omer Ipecki. Today are the remaining three; Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek.

Omer Ipecki

As I mentioned yesterday, I received some early efforts by Mr. Ipecki; Odoon was one of them. In its earlier form it was a monolith of wood. Like getting clubbed by a caveman. In the time since Mr. ipecki has taken that unapproachable piece of wood as if he was a sculptor. Discovering shades and texture while carving out a new perfume. In the current form of Odoon Mr. Ipecki has made a perfume of wood in which you can see the individual trees in the woods.

What Mr. Ipecki does is to build a pedestal for this wooden sculpture made of frankincense and fenugreek. The woods within that form are ash, cedar, sandalwood, oak, and pine. What is beautifully realized here is Mr. ipecki makes this as kaleidoscopic as multi-floral perfumes. As Odoon develops on my skin each of those woody ingredients peeks out. They rotate on that framework of maple-syrup tinted resin from the fenugreek and frankincense. This is a simply constructed perfume with a prismatic effect one you rarely encounter in a woody perfume.

Battaniye continues the theme of finding new perspectives for well-known fragrance types; in this case it is amber perfumes. This is an amber perfume, but it is also equal amounts of wet wool and earth. There is a part of Battaniye that reminds me strongly of the wool blanket my mother would wrap me up in when caught in a Florida thunderstorm. Wet wool has a subtle soapy scent from the lanolin which remains after the processing. Mr. Ipecki finds that subtlety with the use of floral ingredient Aurantiol.

Battaniye opens with the honeysuckle quality of Aurantiol infusing a wool accord. It produces a unique animalic effect. Just as I did as a child, I want to pull it closer. When I finally get my nose out of the wool accord what is waiting is dark earthy patchouli along with a simmering amber accord. Musk adds a tailing effect to the animalic aspect of the wool into the amber and patchouli. The base is a set of vetiver and labdanum. Battaniye is a perfume of coziness wrapped in a wool blanket.

These all leads to what I think is the best perfume in the collection; Zeybek. Everything else in the inaugural Pekji collection is Mr. Ipecki altering traditional perfume architectures. In Zeybek he builds a structure all his own; a horse barn. There have been barnyard-style fragrances before. None of the ones I’ve tried has successfully captured the entire milieu so successfully.

It opens with a bunch of sweet hay. Followed by lavender enough to remind one of a fougere. Before that thought can really take hold a mixture of floral and horse-like scents come forward. Mr. Ipecki told me that it is a mixture of cresols which are known for that hint of horsiness. Mr. Ipecki amplifies that while allowing the floral nature of the cresols he is using to provide the contrast. If I needed confirmation of how skilled Mr. Ipecki has become it is finding this balance. Cresols can get easily out of control. It takes a sure hand to make them behave. Mr. Ipecki shows that. The barnyard never overwhelms it finds just the right amount of dirt, hay and horse to become not only pleasant but compelling. There is a strong sea breeze running through this making me imagine this stable is on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean.

Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek all have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Ipecki is a new vital voice in independent perfume. He can reinvent the traditional or build something all his own. The success of his first five releases lays down a significant marker for the future.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples I received from Pekji.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Pekji Ruh and Eau Mer- New Rose Oriental and Aquatic

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I get a lot of early versions of perfumes by aspiring independent perfumers. I try to spend enough time with them to give relevant feedback. Most of the time when I am being asked, the perfumer has already committed to their concept. Infrequently I’ll receive perfumes where they really are early efforts. I enjoy these because I tend to have a good feel for whether the person behind the fragrance has something to say. Almost five years ago I received the early perfumes of Omer Ipecki. There was a real sense of talent not quite ready for prime time.

Mr. Ipecki continued to work on his perfumes. In 2015 there was a kind of beta test of the five perfumes which have become the debut collection released this year. When I tried those versions of the perfumes, they displayed the maturation of what I had experienced eighteen months prior. I found them almost there. There was some blurriness around the progression, but the concepts were solid. They were better than many other independent releases. The finished products released this year have produced something which stands out among the best perfumes of the year.

Omer Ipecki

I am going to review all five of the Pekji perfumes over the next two days. Today I start with the two which represent some of the most overused styles in all of perfumery. Mr. Ipecki injects new life into the rose perfume and the aquatic perfume in Ruh and Eaumer, respectively.

Ruh is a rose-focused Oriental. That is as trite a style of perfume as it comes. If there was something which stood out in Mr. Ipecki’s early efforts was his desire to rearrange the components of that which had become generic. In Ruh he adds a fresh perspective to give rise to something all his own.

Ruh opens on an afternoon break around coffee and cardamom-laced milk tea. The acidity of the coffee is closer to roasted oily beans then the brewed version. The milk tea is a gentle green tea loaded with green cardamom. That version of cardamom has stickiness to it especially in this concentration. The combination of bitter oiliness and steeped green vegetal stickiness is sublime. One thing I must warn people about is this top accord. If you try it on paper it never releases as fully as it does on skin. Ruh is at its best on skin. What you do smell first if you try it on a strip is the heart combination of saffron and rose. Just as with the cardamom Mr. Ipecki uses a high concentration of the saffron. That makes it more of an equal partner instead of a modifier as saffron usually interacts with rose in an Oriental construct. This carries an outsize effect over the top of an opulent Turkish rose. The saffron forcibly extracts the spicy core of the rose bringing it to the front of my senses. The cardamom and the coffee make a return to amplify the spiciness. This is where Mr. Ipecki has changed the Oriental by taking the traditional top notes of spices which become secondary to the rose; he uses those early spice notes to turn the heart of the rose inside out giving the spices primacy. The saffron remains the keynote as its leathery nature interacts with the traditional Oriental base accord to finish things.

The most complete perfume of the early versions Mr. Ipecki sent me was one he called Eaumer. He wanted to take the overexposed Calone infused fresh perfumes which exemplify the style to a more real place. If you’ve ever spent anytime around a marina getting ready to head out in a powerboat you will recognize Eaumer.

It is very easy to say “I want to make a Calone-free aquatic”. The worthy goal is harder to realize. To capture the smell of the water lapping up against the hull of the boat and the wood of the dock is not easy. It was why in that early version of Eaumer I was convinced Mr. Ipecki had talent. The aquatic accord of lime and herbs were there. I wanted a bit more green. Mr. ipecki provided it. There are herbs standing in for the algae clinging to the pilings on the dock as you get an intermittent whiff every time they are exposed to the air. The other new thing added in is the smell of gasoline on the water as the engine is refueled it leaves a prismatic slick on the water. You might be thinking algae and gasoline don’t sound pleasant. Mr. Ipecki uses them as atmosphere for where Eaumer is eventually heading; out on the open water. That is represented by a fantastically balanced accord of ambergris and Haitian vetiver. The brininess of the ambergris along with the freshness of the vetiver is the sense of sea spray breaking over the bow as you open the throttle up.

Ruh and Eaumer have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tomorrow I will finish the rest of the Pekji line with reviews of Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Pekji.

Mark Behnke