Colognoisseur 2016 Year-End Review Part 1- Overview

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2016 will probably go down as a pivotal year in the perfume business. As an observer of much of the field this year I have seen change in almost every place I can see. Which leads me to believe it is also taking place behind the scenes where I am not able to know the entire story. Change like this can be unsettling which has made for some worrying trends but overall I think it has contributed to another excellent year. I smelled a little less this year than last year; 680 new perfumes versus 2015’s 686. Surprisingly the amount of new releases has also plateaued with 1566 new releases in 2016 versus 1676 last year. Maybe we have defined the amount of new perfume the market can bear. Over the next three days I will share my thoughts on the year coming to an end.

We are told in Ecclesiastes, or by The Byrds if you prefer; “To every thing there is a season” and so it is in perfume as the season of the Baby Boomers has ended and the Millennials have taken over. This younger generation is now larger, has more discretionary income, and is spending more on perfume than the Boomers are per multiple sources. While the public at large was made aware of it this year the industry could see the change coming a year, or more, prior. What that meant for 2016 as far as fragrance went was every corporate perfume entity was on a fishing expedition to see if they could be the one who lured this group of consumers towards them. The drive for this is huge because lifelong brand loyalties can be formed right now within this group. Certainly, the enduring trends of the next few years in fragrance will be determined by where they spend their money. All of that has made 2016 fascinating because at the end of the year that answer is no clearer than it was at the beginning. The prevailing themes, based on what was provided to them, is they want lighter in sillage and aesthetic, gourmand, and different. That last category is the ephemeral key I think. The brand which can find them in the place where they Periscope, Snapchat, and Instagram is going to have an advantage.

Christine Nagel (l.) and Olivier Polge

There was also generational change taking place at two of the most prestigious perfume brands, Hermes and Chanel. The new in-house perfumers for both took full control in 2016. Christine Nagel released Hermes Eau du Rhubarbe Ecarlate and Galop D’Hermes. Olivier Polge released Chanel Boy and Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. This shows both talented artists know how to take an existing brand aesthetic and make it their own.

Cecile Zarokian, Quentin Bisch, Luca Maffei (l. to r.)

The next generation of perfumers exemplified by Cecile Zarokian, Quentin Bisch, and Luca Maffei loomed large this year. Mme Zarokian did thirteen new releases in 2016 all of them distinctively delightful from the re-formulation of Faths Essentials Green Water to the contemporary Oriental Puredistance Sheiduna. M. Bisch brilliantly reinvented one of the masterpieces of perfume in Thierry Mugler Angel Muse. Sig. Maffei released ten new fragrances with Masque Milano L’Attesa, Laboratorio Olfattivo MyLO, and Jul et Mad Secrets du Paradis Rouge showcasing his range. 

There were also fascinating collaborations this year. Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari contributed Cadavre Exquis an off-beat gourmand. Josh Meyer and Sam Rader conspired to create a Northern California Holiday bonfire in Dasein Winter Nights. Victor Wong the owner and creative director of Zoologist Perfumes was able to get the most out of independent perfumers like Ellen Covey in Bat and Sarah McCartney in Macaque.

Some of the independent perfumers I look to surprisingly released perfumes which did not please me. Thankfully there were new ones who stepped up to fill in the gap. Lesli Wood Peterson of La Curie, Ludmila and Antoine Bitar of Ideo Parfumeurs, and Eugene & Emrys Au of Auphorie did that. Chritsti Meshell of House of Matriarch made an ambitious economic move into Nordstrom while producing two of my favorites from her in Albatross and Kazimi.

The mainstream sector had another strong year as the mall continues to have diamonds hidden amongst the dross. In 2016 that meant Elizabeth & James Nirvana Bourbon, Alford & Hoff No. 3, SJP Stash, Prada Infusion de Mimosa, Thierry Mugler Angel Muse, and Chanel No. 5 L’Eau were there to be found.

If the beginning of the year was all about rose the overall year was a renaissance for neroli perfumes. Jean-Claude Ellena’s swan song for Hermes; Eau de Neroli Dore. The afore mentioned Green Water along with Jo Malone Basil & Neroli and Hiram Green Dilettante showed the versatility of the note.

The acquisition of niche brands continued with Estee Lauder buying By Kilian and L’Oreal doing the same with Atelier Cologne. The acquisitions of Frederic Malle and Le Labo, two years ago, seem to have been positive steps for both brands. Especially seeing Le Labo in my local mall getting such a positive reception made me believe that if the good niche brands can become more available the consumer will appreciate the difference.

Tomorrow I will name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

The next day I will reveal my Top 25 New Releases of 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review 4160 Tuesdays Maxed Out- Hard Day’s Night

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After reviewing independent perfumer Sarah McCartney’s collaborative Zoologist Macaque yesterday, I thought I’d review one of her fragrances for her own brand 4160 Tuesdays.

Ms. McCartney has been making perfume for about five years now. The name of her brand comes from the idea that if you live to be 80-years old you will see 4160 Tuesdays. Ms. McCartney has admirably crated a brand which is eclectic in all the best ways that adjective can be applied. She has no hesitation to take risks which also allows for her to find really great combinations in the unexpected. I had fallen behind on her latest releases because she is a prolific perfumer, too. She kindly sent me a bunch of samples to catch me up. The one I liked best was last year’s Maxed Out.

Maxed Out is a tribute to Ms. McCartney’s friend Max Heusler a perfume vlogger from New York City. Mr. Heusler had allowed perfume to replace his hard partying days as a younger man. Ms. McCartney wanted to design a perfume which reminded him of those hard charging over-the-top nights. To that end she chose to make Maxed Out an overstuffed night out.

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Sarah McCartney

Maxed Out opens with a rum cocktail cut with coconut and lime. Ms. McCartney wanted Maxed Out to be decadent and right from the first moments she accomplishes this as the rum accord burns with intensity, what goes with a drink at the bar is something to smoke. Ms. McCartney provides both options as a honeyed tobacco mingles with cannabis accord. Like a snowball going downhill they pick up the rum and head for the base. There they are met with a piquant sweaty accord of musk, cumin, and black pepper. My favorite part is the final moment is a wonderfully sly wink of a coffee note to remind you of every cup at a diner just before the sun comes up.

Maxed Out has 10-12 hour longevity and as an extrait has low sillage.

Maxed Out is of a class of perfume which is almost like tossing a kitchen sink worth of notes together. It takes a lot of patience to keep all of these notes working towards an effective cohesion. Ms. McCartney does make it happen seemingly effortlessly. Ms. McCartney is one of those recent additions to the ranks of independent perfumers who blazes her own path fearlessly. I continue to look forward to what comes next.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by 4160 Tuesdays.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Macaque- Pushmi-Pullyu

One of the great things about independent perfumery is the ability of talented people to literally follow their nose; wherever it takes them. For the most part this method leads to incredibly unique compositions. On the other hand, I am a big supporter of the advantage an active creative director can bring to a final construct. This year I have received a number of disappointing releases from some of my favorite indie perfumers. I have been wondering if they have painted themselves into a corner which they can’t see. I have also been wondering if they could benefit from a strong voice which could maybe point out that they are in a corner while offering a path out. It is mostly a rhetorical question but there has been one brand which is displaying that once in a while having another person involved in the process might be beneficial. That is Zoologist.

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Victor Wong

Right at the new year founder and creative director of Zoologist, Victor Wong, provided one data point with the release of Bat where he worked with Ellen Covey. Mr. Wong and Dr. Covey formed a real partnership which lead to one of the best perfumes of this year. It was with great interest to see if Mr. Wong could do this again. The new release Zoologist Macaque shows he can.

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Sarah McCartney

For Macaque indie perfumer Sarah McCartney, who works under her own brand 4160 Tuesdays, she contacted Mr. Wong to see if she could add her own fragrance to the menagerie. As she and Mr. Wong discussed what it should be she went back to her fascination with primates as a child along with her study of primatology in college. In the end they decided to render the playful Macaque as their inspiration. This is a great choice because while Ms. McCartney’s work for her own brand is fun Mr. Wong elevates Macaque to a joyful piece of perfumery.

Macaques are often found nearby temples in Asia. The most solemn of ceremonies can be witnessed from the heights of the jungle canopy while the monkeys chew on a piece of fruit cadged from a tourist. All of that has made it into Macaque. Ms. McCartney has made a mixture of fruit, resins, woods, and teas which comes together in stages.

The first stage is the fruit as apple and red mandarin form the top accord. This is the snap of red apple matched with a tart juicy mandarin. Ms. McCartney uses cedar to help define both of the fruity notes. The green of the jungle is set up by galbanum while frankincense matched with jasmine tea forms the basis for the ceremonial. The tea note turns towards a more acerbic green tea while the cedar-like white oud recapitulates the cedar from earlier. It finishes with a furry musk as our monkeys move along to a different part of the temple.

Macaque has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I enjoyed my days of wearing Macaque I got to thinking about one of the fanciful creatures from Dr. Doolittle called a Pushmi-Pullyu. It is a creature with two heads at either end. While that might seem like it could end up as a stalemate; if both ends can trust the other to take charge for short periods of time real progress can be made. With Macaque it seems as if Mr. Wong and Ms. McCartney didn’t let the presence of two heads lead to inertia instead they used it to build up momentum as they both rose to the occasion with Macaque.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review 4160 Tuesdays Pillow Talk- Intimate Whispers of Expectations

There is a subset of independent perfumers who work very strongly towards a stated brief. As a rule when these free thinkers of fragrance connect perfume to imagination they become some of my favorite perfumes. One of those independent perfumers who has achieved this repeatedly for me is Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays. I reviewed three of her beach-themed perfumes a little over a year ago. I found her ability to modulate a similar theme to be one of her strongest attributes as an independent perfumer. Recently she has added two new perfumes to her The Sexiest Scent on the Planet (IMHO) to form a relationship trio. If The Sexiest Scent etc. was for the all-important third date. The two latest releases Pillow Talk and Sleep Knot are about the next phases of the relationship.

Sleep Knot is for that part of the relationship when the two of you fall into a tangle of limbs while sleeping deeply. It is a jasmine and ylang-ylang floral heart over a sweet woody base of sandalwood and cedar. It is a nicely done perfume but it felt a little too safe to me. As if the relationship could be very set in its ways. On the other hand Pillow Talk is meant to capture that exciting moment when a couple is in bed facing each other talking about their hopes and dreams. Those conversations are intimate and spoken sotto voce. The perfume Ms. McCartney has designed around that theme whispers of hopes and dreams for a future beyond the pillow.

sarah mccartneySarah McCartney

Pillow Talk has a beautifully presented energy in the top notes as yuzu and bergamot provide that moment as lovers lock eyes with excitement. They can’t wait to share their emotions and it all comes out in a rush. The yuzu has that feeling as the tart citrus energy represents that. The heart is a conversation of florals whispering different visions. The sweet motion of orange blossom. The outsized dreams of ylang-ylang. The carnality of jasmine. Ms. Mc Cartney uses natural sources for all of these florals which adds a lot of nuance. I imagined it as the body language beneath the words. The foundation of this relationship is built on a sturdy sandalwood and cedar with vanilla and black peeper added in. This base is shared across all three of the relationship fragrances. If you’re not fond of sweet synthetic woods this is what persists the longest while wearing any of these.

Pillow Talk has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Mc Cartney’s perfume names have a natural ability to already steer my mind and emotions towards an expectation before I even get a chance to sniff the fragrance. In the case of Pillow Talk I felt like we had a conversation meant for two even though we are separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Pillow Talk is definitely one of my favorites of the entire 4160 Tuesdays line.

Disclosure; this review was based on a sample provided by 4160 Tuesdays.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews 4160Tuesdays Sunshine and Pancakes, What I Did on My Holidays, The Dark Heart of Havana- Tuesdays at the Beach

I met Sarah McCartney at Esxence this past March. I was introduced to her by Grant Osborne and Lila Das Gupta of Basenotes. I didn’t immediately make the connection until she asked me if I would like to try some of her perfume line, 4160Tuesdays. Then it all clicked over in my head as I had been reading about her creations online but she was strictly a UK phenomenon. I was given ten of her fragrances to try and it has taken me most of the time since I met her to give all of them a try. Ms. McCartney joins a burgeoning indie perfumer movement picking up steam in Europe. I can say that the ten I spent time with are all worth trying and there are five more I haven’t yet had the opportunity to sample.

sarah mccartney

Sarah McCartney

Out of these ten there were three that shared a common thread of being near the beach and as I thought about it each captured the beach and a particular time of day, as well. The name 4160Tuesdays comes from “if we live until we’re 80, we have 4160 Tuesdays.” Sunshine and Pancakes, What I Did on My Holidays, and The Dark Heart of Havana capture three different Tuesdays or one really long Tuesday full of fun.

Sunshine and Pancakes captures the potential of sunny summer days. It is that midsummer moment when you wake up to a warm breeze and you can see a brilliant blue sky beyond the billowing curtains. Don’t let the name fool you this perfume is chock full of sunshine and try as I might the pancakes eluded me. (UPDATE: Ms. McCartney informed me that they use lemon juice and sugar on their pancakes in the UK and that is the reference in the name; not the actual pancake) Ms. McCartney chooses to open this with a lens flare of lemon. It is so bright I need to reach for my metaphorical sunglasses. It is brilliant, in both meanings of the word, as it sparkles with energy. It makes you want to get out of bed to see what the day will bring. What this Tuesday brings next is jasmine. On the website description Ms. McCartney mentions that this has “masses of natural jasmine” and it shows. Not only the floral quality but in overdose there is a subtle green character that become more prominent. The lemon lingers and intertwines with the jasmine beautifully. The transition to the base is again sun-burnished as honey is paired with vanilla. It is the honey which is ascendant and the vanilla provides an enhancement to the sweetness. If I was stretching I could say this is where the pancakes are but really it is the soft glow of the sun as it heads towards noontime.

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Rehoboth Beach, DE Boardwalk

What I Did on My Holidays is the scent memory of a family holiday to Scotland. I’ve never been to the seaside in Scotland but I have been to numerous boardwalks on the East Coast of the US and this captures the smell of that milieu quite perfectly. The mix of people walking up and down covered in suntan lotion carrying an ice cream cone the smell of cotton candy wafting from one of the food stands. It is simple in structure a suntan lotion accord, vanilla, and calone. That captures the smells of an afternoon on the beach carrying your ice cream cone while the sea breeze blows the ocean smells to you. Right away the suntan lotion accord is present. Ms. McCartney used melon, coconut, and cucumber to create it. The coconut adds the right amount of slippery oiliness, the melon the sweet, and the cucumber the cool vegetal nature. Together they do combine to create exactly what Ms. McCartney was going for. Pretty soon the double scoop vanilla ice cream cone is in front of you and it carries a cool sweetness without becoming cloying. Finally the calone is used in a small amount but still enough to remind you that the ocean is right over there across the sand.

Once you reach a certain age the summer nights are as enjoyable as the days. The Dark Heart of Havana captures the sultry summer night at a bar by the beach. What stands out in that context is the heat of the day is slipping away and the night blooming flowers are scenting the breeze. An alcoholic libation, the smell of tobacco, and the smell of the sugar cane; this is Cuba and the Caribbean Islands. A trio of fruits open this up as orange and grapefruit get smoothed out a bit by peach. The promised dark heart is tobacco, jasmine, toffee, and tonka. This isn’t so dark as to be threatening instead it is the pulse of the latin beat as you start to tap your foot to the rhythm and it slowly begins to move you towards the dance floor. Once you are there the smell of the sugar cane sweet and green is married with a synthetic skin musk. With only a few minutes until midnight this Tuesday is winding down but you also have 4160 Wednesdays to make memories in too.

Ms. McCartney has been making these fragrances for almost two years now and it might be a little bit of a misnomer to call these “new perfumes” but they have just become available in the US at Luckyscent and so they are new to this market. If you are looking for an indie perfume brand where the intellect of the perfumer is on full display turn over a few of your 4160 Tuesday to Ms. McCartney’s creations there will be one or more that will create a new pleasant memory.

Diaclosure: This review was based on samples provided by 4160Tuesdays.

Mark Behnke