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 Xinu Monstera- Rodrigo y Veronica’s Laboratorio (Part 3)

In Part 1 of these series of reviews on the Mexico City-based perfume brand Xinu I posited that the perfumes might have represented what it might have looked like if perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux began his career as an independent perfumer in Mexico. There are moments within the other three I’ve written about but it is the brand-new release Monstera which really put this idea in my head.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

The biggest divergence between independent perfumery and niche perfumery is in the former there is a much more personal vision on display. In niche perfume, there is a more business-like approach to what is released. Which is what can give independent perfumes their vividness. There are more than a few occasions where niche and independent priorities can mesh. Monstera is one of those times.

Monstera deliciosa

Monstera refers to the giant leafy fruit-bearing plant of Central America. Its botanical name is “monstera deliciosa” The giant leaves are the “monstera” part. The “deliciosa” part is the ripe fruit which is a variation of pineapple when ripe; a little tarter but as sweet. I ate a lot of them during my time and they are deliciosa. What this means for the fragrance named Monstera is Sr. Flores-Roux has created a magnificent perfume of tropical greenery and fruit which almost magically transforms into leather by the end.

If you have spent time in the tropics there is a smell to the dense green leafy things in the high humidity. It has a weighty vegetal quality. Sr. Flores-Roux captures that in the early moments of Monstera. The vegetation is dense and moist the fruit is tropical and slightly tart. This is the monster plant accord beautifully realized. Then over the course of an hour or so that vegetation slowly turns leathery. I had never considered how close densely vegetal is to raw unrefined leather. As Monstera makes that transformation it is something that becomes as plain as the nose on my face. This slightly verdant leathery accord is where Monstera stays for hours.

Monstera has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

After trying these initial four releases from Xinu I must commend Veronica Alejandra Pena in realizing her vision of capturing the botanical bounty of the Americas. By allowing Sr. Flores-Roux to be her partner it has also seemingly allowed him more latitude to compose in some different ways. Monstera is certainly one of the best perfumes Sr. Flores-Roux has made. I am hoping that Rodrigo y Veronica will spend many more years in their Mexico City Laboratorio.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Xinu.

Mark Behnke