New Perfume Review Maison d’Etto Macanudo- This Is Not a Cigar

When I receive new perfumes I often get images in my mind from the names. I think that is normal. It can be fun to be surprised once I spritz some onto a strip to find something completely different. This was what happened when I received my sample set of the new brand Maison d’Etto. I was attracted to the brand because of young perfumer Mackenzie Reilly. Naturally when I saw the name of the perfume she contributed to the collection, Maison d’Etto Macanudo, I thought tobacco perfume is on its way. This is not a cigar fragrance this is inspired by something else.

Brianna Lipovsky

The inspiration for Maison d’Etto comes from its founder Brianna Lipovsky. Ms. Lipovsky is an equestrian who has also worked in the beauty business. After being around those who make perfume as part of her job, she had always had the idea to combine her love of horses with a perfume collection. Late last year she would complete her vision releasing five perfumes inspired by five horses she has known throughout her life. The consistent aesthetic through all five is being on horseback. Each perfume finds a different way to interpret the vitality of a horse in motion.

Mackenzie Reilly

One of the things which causes Macanudo to stand out from the rest of the collection is its exuberance. I have never ridden a horse except when guided by someone experienced. I do have friends who are riders. I have observed a joyful grin on their faces when they are with their horse in a full-tilt gallop. There seems to be this thrill to be together as they fly through the world. I have no way of knowing this but as a guess I am thinking Macanudo was a horse Ms. Lipovsky rode as a youth. Macanudo has the feel of a teenager riding through the world without a care.

Ms. Reilly assays this by what is being churned up by the horse’s hooves; grass and earth. It is where Macanudo begins with the smell of grass and soil. Ms. Reilly uses that as the race-course through which Macanudo travels. First it races past some tart citrus groves of grapefruit as the sunlight glistens off the mane. It makes a turn through a field of narcissus and hay. Here the deeply redolent flower finds a warmer partner in the hay-like coumarin. Finally it comes to rest at the barn as vetiver captures the scent of the grass and the wood of the clapboard on the barn. Sandalwood deepens the woodiness along with just enough musk to remind you of the horse you’ve been riding.

Macanudo has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I tip my hat to Ms. Lipovsky for realizing what she wanted. The entire Maison d’Etto collection is like choosing which horse you want to take for a ride today. I know I will choose Macanudo just for the thrill of throwing my head back with joy.  

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample set I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Jovan Musk Oil for Men- Musk for the Masses

If you read my Christmas 2019 column you would know the first perfume that I owned was Jovan Musk Oil for Men. It’s been almost fifty years since I received that bottle and there is still a newer bottle on my shelf today. Jovan Musk Oil for Men is the very reason for this column. To let you know there are some terrific perfumes in the more economical places to purchase fragrance, like the drugstore.

When I was researching looking for the ad which made me desire a bottle, I found out some interesting background on how this perfume came to exist. It started when Barry Shipp was walking in Greenwich Village sometime in the late 1960’s. He saw a long line snaking out the door of a head shop and was curious what the commotion was about. He would discover it was for a vial of a fragrance called “musk oil”. The story goes the line had formed because the word was it made the opposite sex swoon while also being able to be worn by men or women. Mr. Shipp, then employed by Revlon, wanted to take advantage. He would partner first with Bernard Mitchell to develop a synthetic musk which would replicate the vial he had. Together they founded the French-sounding Jovan. Then he turned to a friend from the flavor industry, Murray Moscona, to act as perfumer. This was the team which assembled the perfume which would go in the bottle. What would go on the outside of the bottle that was all Mr. Shipp.

As you can see in the picture above the box itself was the come-on. Mr. Shipp would cleverly use the buzzwords to draw in his intended audience. I was one of those eager consumers who wanted what was laid out on that box. I wasn’t alone. In just the years of the 1970’s Jovan did about $1 Million in sales in 1971; the year before Jovan Musk Oil for Men was released. By the end of the decade that number had exploded to $85 million. The word-laden boxes of Jovan were seen everywhere. That’s the history of it all.

The perfume itself is also quite good. I haven’t been able to find much on Mr. Moscona other than he would do all of the Jovan perfumes in the 1970’s. He didn’t quit his day job as a flavorings chemist to take on the other work. There is a part of me that sees this as one of the early examples of American independent perfumery. Taking a singular vision of something and translating it into perfume outside of the traditional apparatus of the day.

Mr. Moscona’s lack of experience in perfume-making means he stuck to a tried and true formula. It starts with a little citrus then it transitions through carnation and lavender to head for the money note. Here is the funny thing the synthetic musk they developed wasn’t this animalic simulation of actual natural musk. They decided to seize on the sweetness of that vial of musk oil Mr. Shipp found. The synthetic musk at the base of Jovan Musk Oil for Men is more closely related to the white musks. It allowed for Mr. Moscona to add some synthetic woods which provided just enough texture to keep it from being too clean.

Jovan Musk Oil for Men has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Jovan Musk Oil for Men still holds up for me even though I am no longer a teenager looking for a perfume to attract girls. I am a colognoisseur who thinks this is still a darn good perfume for a darn good price. In other words a Discount Diamond.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2020 Hopes and Wishes

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As has become my tradition I spend the last day of 2019 considering what I hope to see in 2020.

Even though you won’t count me among them I’d like to see more who comment on perfume make the leap to creative direction. One thing this past year has shown me is those who used to be out here in the interwebs can become outstanding creative directors of their own perfume. The key ingredient is putting in the work to do your vision justice. If you need examples of how to do it right Victor Wong of Zoologist, Arielle Weinberg of Arielle Shoshana, or Barbara Herman of Eris Parfums all made some of the best perfumes of 2019 by working hard at getting it right. If you need an example of how not to do it just check out the discount sites. It proves cynicism about fragrance doesn’t only exist in the mass-market sector.

I want even more innovation and boundary busting from the independent perfume community. This one will come off as ungrateful because after a boring 2018 I asked the indies to step it up. If you look back over my Best of 2019 lists, you know I think they did that in a big way. I saw new ideas in aquatics, gourmands, animalic, and chypres all arise from this group of creative minds. I know there must be some ideas for other style-busting concepts percolating out there. Bring them out for 2020. Or in the words of Oliver Twist, “Please sir, I want some more.”

More about the perfume making process from the perfumers. One of the things I’ve enjoyed a lot has been the willingness of many of the independent perfumers to find a way to communicate about their process. Shawn Maher of Chatillon Lux adds a “Scent Notes” blog post accompanying many of his new releases. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has gotten more interactive as she hosts a weekly Facebook Live where she talks about her perfumes and takes questions live. There are so many ways to remove some of the mystery of perfume making while inviting us in I’d like to see others take advantage of it.

My final wish is for someone to put together a U.S.-Based version of the great Italian perfume expositions. Esxence and Pitti Fragranze are places to be seen on the perfume calendar every year. Nothing similar exists in the US. With the vital American independent perfume community plus New York as one of the world capitals of perfume this should exist. Not sure who I am asking to take the lead on this, but I hope someone gives it a try.

As always, I appreciate everyone who takes the time out of their day to read my words. Happy New Year to everyone. Let’s all step into 2020 full of optimism for another great year of perfume.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Part 3- The Top 25 New Perfumes of 2019

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Just to keep this all in perspective. I tried 734 new perfumes since January 1, 2019. That is about a third of all new perfumes released in the same time frame. It is impossible to try everything although I keep trying. The list of perfumes below represents the best of what I encountered this year. If you want to read more on any of these, the link to the full review is in the name for each perfume on the list.

The Top 10 (Perfume of the Year candidates)

10. Comme des Garcons Copper– The best of the six perfumes released by Comme des Garcons. Perfumer Alienor Massenet created the most mutable fragrance of the year. It never seemed to smell the same from minute-to-minute but all of them were memorable ones.

9. Rubini Tambour SacreAndrea Rubini has assembled an incredible team of Italian creatives to make perfume. Tambour Sacre captured a night of drums in the Horn of Africa by the Perfumer of the Year Cristiano Canali.

8. Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede– M. Barrois asked perfumer Quentin Bisch to modify the leather accord they used in their first release B683. Ganymede is one of the best lightweight leather perfumes I’ve ever encountered. The use of immortelle is as eye-opening as the perfume itself.

7. Zoologist SquidVictor Wong had a spectacular year for his Zoologist Perfumes brand. Squid was his take on a deep-water aquatic. Perfumer Celine Barel would find a new way of experiencing the ocean as perfume in the inky depths. In a year of groundbreaking aquatics this was the best of them.  

6. Zoologist Bee– No you’re not seeing double it just shows what a great year this brand had. Mr. Wong worked with perfumer Cristiano Canali on a perfume that flowed like no other perfume I tried this year. To work with the notoriously difficult honey while keeping it from falling into its well-known fallibilities is top-notch perfume making.

5. Nishane Ani– Creative directors Mert Guzel and Marat Katran allowed perfumer Cecile Zarokian to continue to push at the boundaries of gourmand perfumes. Together they produced the best perfume this brand has ever produced by making vanilla the centerpiece of something new.

4. Hiram Green LustreHiram Green has been assembling a collection of rare beauty. That he can wring presence out of an all-natural palette is part of the reason. The other part is a jeweler’s eye when he makes a soliflore rose like Lustre. It glistens like the finest diamond as every facet gives you something new to admire.

3. Providence Perfume Co. Drunk on the MoonCharna Ethier has dissected tuberose. Then she puts it back together as pieces floating on top of a cream sherry accord. Every time I wear this, I admire the audacity it took to do this with the queen of white flowers. Stripped down to her essence she displays even more beauty through the subtlety of it all.

2. Talc d’IUNXOlivia Giacobetti is the ultimate independent perfumer working from a single storefront in Paris; releases are infrequent. At the beginning of the year Talc d’IUNX reminded everyone who started this whole transparent thing before it was a trend. She also reminded everyone there is no other perfumer like her working today. Talc d’IUNX is mesmerizing in its will-o-the-wisp fragility darting through transitions each more beautiful than the last.

1. Chatillon Lux WeinstrasseThe larger reason for why I named it the Best Perfume of 2019 can be found in Part 2. The shorter version is; it is the best perfume based on a wine that I own from the best new independent perfumer, Shawn Maher, I’ve tried in years.

The Rest of the Top 25 in alphabetical order

Aftelier Perfumes Embers & Musk and Forest Bathing– Okay I’m cheating but these two perfumes are actually 11 & 11A on my list. Mandy Aftel made a diptych of night (Embers & Musk) and day (Forest Bathing) in a pine forest.

Arielle Shoshana SundayArielle Weinberg follows up her debut perfume, collaborating again with Cecile Hua, with a next-generation gourmand based on a mixture of matcha tea and horchata. Cue up Lionel Richie and sink into it.

Bogue Douleur! Antonio Gardoni collaborated with Freddie Albrighton to turn the metallic nature of rose oxide into something that deserved that exclamation point at the end of the name.

Chatillon Lux AdmiralShawn Maher makes a freshwater river aquatic inspired by an Art Deco riverboat. If that sounds different it’s because it is.

Cognoscenti Warrior Queen– Perfumer Dannielle Sergent spent 2019 composing perfume differently than she has. Warrior Queen is a multi-layered fragrance which shows Ms. Sergent also has some more layers as a perfumer.

Eris Mxxx. Barbara Herman and perfume Antoine Lie use last year’s Mx. as the foundation for a trio of exquisitely chosen ingredients. It transforms what was good into something great.

Guerlain Embruns D’Ylang– My yearly reminder of why I shouldn’t give up on Guerlain. This time it’s a smoky ylang-ylang that shows me the creativity at the Grand Maison de Parfum may be buried under a pile of mediocrity; but it still remains.

Les Soeurs de Noe Jardin de Macarons– Creative director Nadia Benaisa worked with perfumers Pierre Wulff and Jerome Epinette on her debut collection. This one stood out because is smelled like what I imagine an orris macaron would be.

Masque Milano Kintsugi– Creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi had another fantastic year. The first release was a reconstructed chypre from perfumer Vanina Muracciole. The clever concept was by leaving the seams showing they made a contemporary chypre.

Masque Milano Love Kills– Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi asked of rising star Caroline Dumur to make an elegiac rose. She delivered a perfume composed of the fragility of a dried rose in a memory book.

Monsillage Route du Quai– Perfumer Isabelle Michaud gave me the other perspective on a freshwater river aquatic. She captured the colder flow of the St. Lawrence river where she summered as a child. Another reminder that the most creative perfumers can make the most boring styles vital again.

Rasei Fort KolonyaRasei Fort is one of the most inconsistent independent perfumers I have encountered. When he is at his best, the perfume he creates is also one of the best. Kolonya is his remarkable combination of memory and classic cologne into something magical.

Roberto Greco Oeilleres– French photographer Roberto Greco worked for two years with perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato to create an “anti-flower” perfume. It goes back and forth between old school and contemporary in a way which makes it seem equal parts of both.

Senyoko La Tsarine– The best release from a brand I discovered just this year. Joseph and Emilia Berthion have collaborated with perfumer Euan McCall on a remarkable collection with breadth. La Tsarine is inspired by the carnal adventures of Catherine the Great. Rare is the perfume that lives up to that. La Tsarine is unafraid to delve deeply into the concept. A perfume not for the timid.

Strangelove NYC fallintostarsElizabeth Gaynes and Helena Christensen along with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel have created a memorable collection of perfumes which have always enthralled me. fallintostars is the best of them because they use everything they have learned to create a transcendent perfume.

The Next 25 Just Because This Was Such a Good Year

Aether Arts Perfume Burner Perfume No. 10 Chrysalis– Amber Jobin created a perfume of transitions.

April Aromatics Vetiver Coeur– Tanja Bochnig finds the serenity within vetiver

Ariana Grande ThankU, Next– Best bang for your buck perfume of 2019.

Arquiste Misfit– Turns patchouli from head shop to elegant.

Bruno Fazzolari Zdravetz– A unique source of geranium leads to a singular perfume.

Chanel Paris-Riviera– Another fun travel with Coco.

Curata Dulceo– Another evolution of gourmand from a new independent brand.

Floral Street Ylang-Ylang Espresso– Sometimes a perfume delivers what it promises on the label.

Francesca Bianchi The Black Knight– The scent of a noble knight no matter what the color says.

Frapin If by R.K. An homage to India featuring Mysore sandalwood.

Gucci Memoire d’une Odeur– Best mainstream perfume of 2019.

Hermes Un Jardin sur la Lagune– Christine Nagel turns the Jardin series inward.

Imaginary Authors Telegrama– Modern masculine barbershop.

Ineke Jaipur Chai– The smell of a cup of chai while looking out the picture window.

Maison Violet Tanagra– Heritage brand which gets it right.

Marlou Poudrextase– Another musky NSFW perfume.

Memo Winter Palace– The best Oriental from Memo in years.

NARS Audacious– Olivia Giacobetti’s stealth mainstream release.

Phoenicia Perfumes Dark Musk– A truly fascinating musk accord.

Puredistance Gold– A luxurious perfume which lives up to its name.

Rogue Chypre-Siam– Chypre as composed in a Thai restaurant.

Ryan Richmond Rich Mess– Crazy kinetic perfume.

Sarah Baker Charade– Old school elegance in a modern setting.

Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere– The only perfume which should have had a little umbrella in it.

Zaharoff Signature pour Homme– A great perfume for a man who wants only one on his dresser.

I close all of this with the same phrase I began it with. 2019 was the greatest year for independent perfumery ever. I hope 2020 will be even better.

Mark Behnke

Best of 2019 Prologue

Best of 2019 Part 1 Overview

Best of 2019 Part 2 Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Driector, and Brand of the Year

The Sunday Magazine: My Favorite Non-Perfume Things of 2019

For those of you looking for my top 25 new perfumes of 2019 it will be posted tomorrow. Today I take a break and list some of my favorite non-perfume things of 2019. There is a small devoted following to this column which has always made me happy which is why I like to have a year-end list for them, too. There is more to life than perfume here are some of the things which make it better for me.

Favorite Movie: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”- I am an unabashed fanboy of director/writer Quentin Tarantino. I think this might be the best movie he has made. It is his version of 1969 Hollywood part reality, part fantasy. It has been an interesting aspect of the recent films by Mr. Tarantino in that he likes to imagine some “what-ifs” then plays them out within his films. This movie captures the moment where the lines between movie stars and tv stars started to blur. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are fantastic as an action movie star and his stunt double. They are the core of the movie. What elevated the entire movie was the performance of Margot Robbie as actress Sharon Tate. When she goes to a movie theatre to see her own performance, with an audience, she exudes the joy of seeing herself on screen. Mr. Tarantino has always worn his love for movies and moviemaking on his sleeve. This movie was a big valentine to all of it.

Favorite TV Show: “Watchmen”- Oh boy did I expect to find a god-awful mess in this update to the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Damon Lindelof, who oversaw this, is a creative mind who sometimes finds a way to sabotage his own good work with endings that don’t hold together. None of that happened here. Mr. Lindelof honored the source material while spinning it in an entirely different direction. It gave new perspective on the original while telling its own new story. This time the ending was perfect with a final shot I have been thinking about since the screen faded to credits.

Favorite TV Episode: Season 3 Episode 10 of GLOW “A Very GLOW Christmas”- Before Watchmen appeared GLOW season 3 was going to be my favorite show of the year. There are times when a series finds everything that makes a show special and wraps it up into a gift to its fans. That was the way this season finale played out. With the framing device of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling putting on a version of “A Christmas Carol” in the ring. The characters are each given moments to find their truths. The final one coming on an airplane jetway between the main female protagonists was brilliantly done because of the acting of Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin saying the words of Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch. The show premiered in August, but I re-watched this just before Christmas and it was even better.

Favorite Album: Vampire Weekend “Father of the Bride”- It had been six years since the band released anything new. I have enjoyed the previous releases because they have felt like an extension of early bands like The English Beat. In this latest album the continuing evolution of that sound surprised me with its poignancy. The music still makes me want to move but the lyrics keep my feet on the ground.

Favorite single: “Hallelujah” by Haim– It has been a fun year to be a fan of the sisters Haim. They didn’t release a new album. Instead we got new releases via YouTube drops out of the blue. The last one of the year, came just before Thanksgiving. “Hallelujah” was inspired by the loss of Alana Haim’s best friend to a car accident when she was 20. The song builds to her verse as each sister finds the thankfulness for their bond before Alana closes with words to her friend. “Hallelujah” has become the new song added to my Holiday playlist even though at first glance it might not seem to be one. For me it is this time of year when we do remember to say Hallelujah for our friends and family.

Favorite Book: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James– This is the best introduction to an epic fantasy series in years. Marlon James tells a story from the perspective of a character who might be an unreliable narrator. There are all the accoutrements of classic fantasy. The difference is this ability of the reader to know whether they are being given the whole truth. My understanding is the remaining two books of the trilogy are going to be the same events narrated by a different character in each book. Mr. James has hit upon a fascinating way to tell a story. I can’t wait for the other two books to complete the story.

Favorite Comic Book: House of X/Powers of X– I’ve lost count of how many times they have rebooted The X-Men over the last twenty years. For the first time writer Jonathan Hickman has made me interested enough to become a consistent reader of the X-books again.

To all the readers of this column thank you for reading throughout the year. Happy New Year to all of you.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

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In Part 1 I took a wide view of the year in perfume that was 2019. Today I get very specific naming the very best of the year in four categories.

Perfume of the Year: Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse– Last year when I was doing my end of year summaries I had never heard of St. Louis-based independent perfumer Shawn Maher and his Chatillon Lux brand. I would catch up over 2019. Mr. Maher is representative of what makes independent perfumery special. He creates perfumes which reflect his hometown’s history and geography. I have enjoyed everything he has released this year. It was his last release of the year Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse that captured my attention most fully of any new perfume I tried this year.

One of the things which has drawn me to Mr. Maher is he shares his process through posts on the Chatillon Lux website. What these entries reveal is a perfumer who understands the materials he is using. He goes deep into the effect each ingredient has on the finished product. You can read the one for Weinstrasse here.

Weinstrasse was inspired by the Germans who migrated to St. Louis and began vineyards. What Weinstrasse captures are the smells of the late harvest. It begins from a clever accord of grapes on the vine using green cognac oil and blackcurrant bud. One thing I marvel at each time I wear Weinstrasse is the way Mr. Maher captures the glow of a late autumn sun. Many perfumes inspired by wine have a claustrophobic feeling. Mr. Maher creates a perfume with a golden glow of muted sunlight. It opens up the entire composition. In that blog post Mr. Maher wanted Weinstrasse to be his version of a fougere. The base is an overdose of the ingredient which defined the beginning of modern perfumery; coumarin. It adds that classic fougere-ish vibe without going fully into it. It fits surprisingly well with everything that has come before.

I believe Mr. Maher is a special talent who is only at the beginning of creating his perfumes. He will have a difficult time making a better perfume than Weinstrasse my choice for Perfume of the Year for 2019.

Perfumer of the Year: Cristiano Canali- Perfumer Cristiano Canali provided brilliant bookends for 2019. In January I was enthralled with Rubini Tambour Sacre only to be equally engaged by Zoologist Bee in December. Sig. Canali is not one of the most prolific or well-known perfumers. He has a layered style of making perfume that requires the right concept to allow it to flourish.

Working with Andrea Rubini and a talented creative team at Rubini Sig. Canali translated the sound of sacred drums from the Horn of Africa into a gorgeous composition in Tambour Sacre. Collaborating with Victor Wong of Zoologist for Bee he created a perfume of multiple layers of honey without falling into the places where honey can be difficult. He successfully traveled the tightrope necessary to make Bee memorable.

This became an easy choice because he was the only perfumer to create two of the ten perfumes I was considering for Perfume of the Year. That is why Cristiano Canali is the Perfumer of the Year for 2019.

Runner-Ups: Mandy Aftel, Antonio Gardoni, Olivia Giacobetti, Christophe Laudamiel, and Shawn Maher.

Creative Director(s) of the Year: Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano– There have been no creative direction in all of perfumery better than that provided by Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano. For the past six years they have followed a formula of working with the best young talented perfumers. Also giving them a brief and the latitude they wouldn’t find elsewhere to create one of the best collections you can find. The two perfumes released in 2019 continued that. Early in the year they worked with Vanina Muracciole to create a reconstructed chypre in Kintsugi. At the end of the year perfumer Caroline Dumur produced an elegiac rose rife with poignancy in Love Kills. Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi have consistently pushed independent perfumery to new heights while serving the young rising stars. For this and the perfume they oversaw in 2019 they are the Creative Directors of the Year for 2019.

Runner-ups: Christian Astuguevieille of Comme des Garcons, Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre d’Orange, Jan Ewoud Vos of Puredistance, and Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes.

Brand of the Year: Zoologist Perfumes– It is a modern miracle what Victor Wong has achieved with his brand Zoologist Perfumes. He is another creative director who seems to get the most out of his collaborators. In 2019 he worked with Joseph DeLapp on Dodo, Daniel Pescio on Chameleon, Celine Barel on Squid, and Cristiano Canali on Bee. No two of those perfumes are like the other. Mr. Wong has created a brand which has consistently impressed but 2019 was the best year they have had creatively. That is why Zoologist Perfumes is the Brand of the Year for 2019.

Runner-Ups: Aftelier Perfumes, Chatillon Lux, Comme des Garcons, and Masque Milano.

Part 1 is my broad overview of 2019.

The Top 25 will be published on Monday December 30.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Part 1- Overview

This past year in perfume was a great one. One of the best since I have been writing about perfume. Part of the reason is what I wrote about in the prologue yesterday. It was the best year ever for independent perfumery. I tried 734 new perfumes in this calendar year. When I look at the bottom of my spreadsheet to see that number it kind of chills me to realize I smelled that many. I knew it was a great year when I put together my first draft of perfumes I wanted to consider for these columns. I ended up with 75 fragrances on that list. 10% of everything I tried was memorable. It speaks to the quality that is out there to be found.

When I say this was the best year for independent perfumery it does not meant that it was a bad year for the mainstream. On the contrary there were some amazing releases from the big brands. Regular readers are tired of my extolling Gucci Memoire d’une Odeur for its fearlessness, but it deserves the recognition. Hermes Un Jardin sur la Lagune stood out for the change in style as Christine Nagel created a more introverted garden which appealed to me. Olivier Polge extended the Les Eaux de Chanel with Paris-Riviera. Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere is the kind of crazy summer flanker I wish we saw more of. Finally, Guerlain has their yearly reminder they aren’t a spent creative force with the magical Embruns D’Ylang.

Christian Astuguevieille

To my great pleasure Comme des Garcons laid down a fantastic reminder of why they haven’t lost their innovative style after 25 years of doing fragrance. The fall saw six new Comme des Garcons releases under the creative guidance of Christian Astuguevieille. They were a reminder of everything this brand continues to do well. From the collaboration with Monocle for Scent Four: Yoyogi. To the neon pink of Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet. The three new Series 10 Clash perfumes, each a study in synthetic contrasts. Ending with the metallic chameleon of Copper. So many of the brands which sparked my interest in artistic perfume have lost the plot I am thankful M. Astuguevieille hasn’t.

Barbara Hermann

This year saw the ultimate transformation of bloggers into creative directors. I think it is easy to convince yourself that if you write about perfume it is a small step to creating it. There have been a few examples this year of how untrue that is. The three who succeeded put in the hard work necessary to see their vision through to a perfume. Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes released four in 2019 all wildly different. Barbara Hermann evolved her brand Eris Parfums into her best release to date Mxxx. Arielle Weinberg has made the transition from blogger to store owner to creative director putting in the time to make each endeavor succeed. Arielle Shoshana Sunday was part of a new breed of gourmands for 2019.

The new gourmands all seemed to be inspired by hot beverages. Arielle Shoshana Sunday by matcha horchata. Floral Street Ylang-Ylang Espresso is an exotic drink of dark coffee and exuberant floral. Ineke Jaipur Chai finds the gentle harmony in the blend of ingredients in chai as a perfume. Cocoa plays a starring role in Curata Dulceo and Eris Parfums Mxxx.

Caroline Dumur

I met fantastic new perfumers for the first time through their work. Caroline Dumur did two of the new Comme des Garcons; Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet and Clash: Chlorophyll Gardenia. Along with her work for Masque Milano Love Kills she has become one to watch. Scottish perfumer Euan McCall impressed me with his work for Senyoko. La Tsarine is a perfume unafraid to go deep into carnality. Contrast that with his work on Migration de L’Arbre which captures the outdoors vibrantly. Shawn Maher of Chatillon Lux was another new name who impressed me with his skill at evoking all that his St. Louis home can give to perfume.

Michael Edwards

Of everything I experienced this year it was a book which has altered my perspective most. Michael Edwards released Perfume Legends II in September. I devoured it over a week. Mr. Edwards has spoken publicly that the revered perfume houses like Guerlain, Chanel, or Dior were the niche perfumes of their day. Though the 52 perfumes covered in the book you realize the era of modern perfumery from Fougere Royale to Portrait of a Lady has always reflected the best of what perfume has to give. It made me view perfumery with a new foundation. It is why I think 2019 has been so good.

Join me tomorrow as I name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.

Sunday, I make a list of my favorite non-perfume things of the year.

Monday, I will have the Top 25 new perfumes of 2019.

Tuesday, I look forward to what I hope to see in 2020.

Until then.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Prologue

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I’ve been spending most of the month considering the “Best of 2019” selections. It is an interesting process which serves to bring the entirety of the year into focus. The more I did this the more I realized there was one topic which was going to hog my traditional overview of the year. It has been at the top of my mind from the moment I had my shortlist of the best of the year assembled. So I’m going to get an early jump on the year-end festivities with a prologue. It is based on this statement which will be part of the next few days of accolades; 2019 was the best year for independent perfumery ever.

"The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks." ~ Christopher Hitchens

Before I give some context for that statement, I want to define the term as I see it. Independent perfume is that which wants to be different than the mainstream. It is a broad term which captures a diversity of ways of making perfume. Any perfumer who owns their own brand while creating for themselves is part of my version of independent perfumery. Any creative director who works with a perfumer while giving a unique version of direction is also part of that. For the first you can think of creatives like Mandy Aftel, Charna Ethier, or Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. For the second Victor Wong of Zoologist, Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano, or Mert Guzel and Murat Katran of Nishane are what I am talking about.

"Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts." ~ Albert Einstein

I also think it encompasses a way of viewing ingredients. Independent perfumers can work with small batches of ingredients they make. If you’re not trying to make thousands of bottles the time it takes to source a rare ingredient or show the patience for a tincture is another hallmark. Limited editions like Bogue Profumo 0,7738 or Hans Hendley for American Perfumer Bloodline illustrate that.

"If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun." ~ Katharine Hepburn

My final criteria are to take a style of perfume and truly push at the common perception of what that is. It can be taken apart and put back together again as Providence Perfume Co. Drunk on the Moon does with tuberose. Rogue Perfumery Chypre-Siam imagines Francois Coty’s seminal perfume as if it was created in a Thai restaurant. Zoologist Squid, Chatillon Lux Admiral, and Monsillage Route du Quai redefined the idea of aquatics. This is where independent perfumery stakes out its territory as created for those who love perfume and want something more. Over the next few days you will see examples across the board on why this has been the best collection of creative independent perfumery ever.

As part of this I also began to wonder why this has all come together in the way it has. It might be nothing more than a confluence of coincidence. That is the most reasonable explanation via Occam’s Razor. I have another hypothesis I would like to share based on what might just be a different interpretation of events as they happen to me.

After writing about perfume for over ten years now my year has a kind of predictable rhythm. January is a desert of new releases while the new spring florals start arriving around the end of the month. Through the spring it is fresh florals then the advent of summer gives me new aquatics and citrus styles. Things get quiet for the dog days only to pick up with a rush for the fall and Holidays as everyone tries to get in on the shopping season. What was different this year was I got a rush of independent perfumes from the middle of November until just about ten days ago. This didn’t make a lot of sense as they were all bound to get lost in the Holiday shopping rush. Plus it made my life difficult because so many of them were excellent. Every time I got a new e-mail telling me something was on its way, I was shaking my head. Then it occurred to me it might not be the shopping season they were concerned with. Maybe it was December 31 they were thinking of.

I am thinking it is because these perfumers knew they had made something good enough to be entered in this year’s Art & Olfaction Awards. Maybe the impact founder Saskia Wilson-Brown was hoping for has arrived. Like what happens with movies making sure they make the qualifying dates to be considered for Academy Awards. Were the independent perfume community doing the same thing? Maybe being nominated for these awards has attained a status which has pushed these artists to creative heights.

What I can say is I have enjoyed the diversity of the best perfumes from these amazing artistic teams all year. You will see how much as I go through my usual progression over the next few days recapping the year in perfume.

Prologue over, it all begins tomorrow with a more standard overview followed by the naming of Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year. It finishes with the top 25 new perfumes of the year. I hope you join me for some of it.

Mark Behnke

My First Perfume Christmas Gift

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It was only recently that I was reminded that the first perfume I owned was a Christmas gift. I’ve spoken, in previous Christmas Day columns, of my days as a child and the place perfume filled with my parents in the Holiday season. I thought this year it was time to talk about my first feelings towards perfume along with why I wanted a specific one under the tree for Christmas 1973.

In the fall of 1973 I had made the rite of passage of starting high school. I was still trying to figure it all out in those early days. Part of that was trying to come up with a personal style. One component were big flaring bell bottom jeans. Mine were so large you couldn’t see my feet when I was walking. There was a store in our local mall called The Jean Connection. I had them order me the biggest flared bell bottoms they could find. I still remember them as the most comfortable jeans I ever owned. My shirts were these popular pull over shirts from a brand called “Hang Ten”. I liked them because they had a lot of brightly colored stripes. Taken all together they were pieces of my aesthetic, all my own, while still being like what others were wearing.

I wanted to add perfume to it all. My father wore all the standard men’s fragrances of the day. He had Dana Canoe, English Leather, and Hai Karate. I wore them a bit, but I had decided if I was going to wear something it was going to be my own thing. That’s when I saw the advertisement below in a magazine.

I’ll happily admit the lines about arousing female “animal desires” was not lost on my adolescent mind. Although it was the line on the back of the box which really sold me on it; “A no-nonsense scent all your own”. I wasn’t going to smell like my father. I was going to have my own, wait for it, signature scent.

When it came time to be making a list for Christmas, Jovan Musk Oil for Men was at the top. I got a little bit of pushback. Dad told me I could use any of his colognes I wanted. Mom thought I was growing up too fast, “why do you want to start wearing perfume, honey?”. I was 14 damnit! Not that I said it out loud. I used my subtle persuasive ways to push that it was the main thing I wanted. I went into Christmas morning confident I had succeeded.

When we woke up and gathered by the tree each person had their presents in a pile. Mine was a pyramid of larger rectangular boxes on the bottom, clothes. A few flat squares on top of that, records. A couple of smaller rectangles, books. On top like my own personal glittery Christmas star was a tiny rectangular box wrapped in red paper with a gold ribbon around it. When it was my turn to open my present, I snatched it off the top. As soon as I unwrapped the ribbon one peek underneath the paper showed the orange color of the box within. Yes!

From that day until today I have always owned a bottle of Jovan Musk Oil for Men. Did it get me girls? I don’t think so. I did have many of the girls I dated say I smelled nice. I think it was doing what perfume should do; add to one’s personal style. It is perhaps as close as I’ve come to having a signature scent as we define it. Ten years on I would be down the rabbit hole and the bottles on my dresser would begin to multiply. For the years prior it was pretty much a bottle of Musk Oil for Men which was my scent. For my parents it was another sign I was closer to leaving home. It was probably a bittersweet moment amidst my excitement at having the gift I wanted. It was another step towards forming the adult I wanted to eventually become. All of that happened on Christmas morning 1973.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review House of Cherry Bomb Iris Oud- Harmony in Contrast

It is the nature of the endeavor when two creative minds create as one, I want to try and figure out who did what. I remember doing this when two of my favorite horror authors, Stephen King and Peter Straub, wrote “The Talisman” in 1984. It is a fool’s errand. It sets one off in a direction of searching for trees instead of seeing the glory of the forest. If two collaborators truly succeed there will be something different than from either one alone. It is how I have finally begun to experience the perfumes made by independent perfumers Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy for their shared brand House of Cherry Bomb.

Maria McElroy (l.) and Alexis Karl

Both women working together has such distinct aesthetics when making their own perfumes it always makes me smile to find a third different one while working together. It is particularly true in the Atelier Perfume collection. The previous six releases are each memorable combinations of titular notes; Tobacco Cognac and Cardamom Rose are my favorites. They have now added a seventh to the group; House of Cherry Bomb Iris Oud.

Iris and oud are two of the most variable perfume ingredients you can use. Iris can have the delicate powdery face or the doughy rooty version. Oud covers the gamut from exotic to barnyard. In many ways a combination of both seems like a perfume Tinder date destined to go bad. Except in the hands of smart perfumers who look for the opportunities for harmony in contrast. Then you get a perfume like Iris Oud.

The perfume opens with iris showing off its powdery nature. Violet is used to keep it from becoming too much a powderpuff. A smart use of jasmine turns the powder towards the rootier quality. Then the oud arrives. This isn’t just pure oud; it is an accord which contains oud. The distinction is the perfumers can tame the more obstreperous qualities to create the effect they want. In this case they use a selection of darker materials to provide guardrails, so the oud comes off as a fascinating visitor. This ends on a honeycomb of beeswax adding subtle animalic sweetness. There is also an array of balsamic notes to create an enveloping warmth for the iris and oud accord.

Iris Oud has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Karl and Ms. McElroy have once again found a new synergy in their creativity. It allows them to find the same in two ingredients like iris and oud.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by House of Cherry Bomb.

Mark Behnke