Colognoisseur 2022 Hopes and Wishes

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As I always do I spend the last day of the year looking forward to the next year with some hopes and dreams.

Getting Back Up

Regular readers know this last part of 2021 has caused me to change some things here at Colognoisseur. Much of that has been because of things outside the world of fragrance. I really hope that I can find an equilibrium between my life and Colognoisseur in 2022. I’m going to try and channel legendary coach Vince Lombardi, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” For the first time in the history of this column it is up to me to make this happen.

One thing 2021 showed me was imaginative creative directors and perfumers don’t have to be bound by the past. This year past saw wonderful new ways of thinking about ingredients like oud and vanilla. I hope this same sense of adventure can expand to other ingredients. Maybe patchouli and tobacco could be the focal points for 2022.

One of These with a Perfume Topic

This year saw a greater use of teleconferences. It seemingly evolved every month. I would really like to see some of the big perfume organizations convene expert panels using this technology. Offering the opportunity to hear from the smartest communicators in perfumery would be a wonderful experience.

One other thing I would like to see is for the evaluators to get some credit. Most perfume brands use an evaluator as an indispensable part of the creative process. I’ve loved giving the creative directors and perfumers credit. It is past time for the evaluators to step out from the shadows.

Finally, my everlasting thanks for stopping by to read this blog the past year. The reason I’m trying to get my feet back under me is because I don’t want to let you down. Happy New Year!

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2021 Part 3: The Top 35 New Perfumes of the Year

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To begin with the context of the list, I tried 621 new perfumes since January 1, 2021. That is about a third of all new perfume released during the same time frame. The list below is the best 5.6% of those I got to try. As you see in the title it has expanded a bit from the usual Top 25. I found that when I looked back, I had a tight list of 35 I was pleased with. I decided to make them all worthy of the main list with no Honorable Mentions this time around.

The Top 10 (Perfume of the Year candidates)

10, Diptyque Kyoto– The best of the four perfumes in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the brand. The magic of beetroot, and perfumer Alexandra Carlin turns this into a stunning fragrance.

9. Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Synthetic Jungle– Perfumer Anne Flipo turned in a sappy green thicket of a perfume.

8. Zoologist Chipmunk– Creative Director Victor Wong and perfumer Pia Long create a modern interpretation of those classic woody masculine perfumes of decades ago.

7. Azman Two Minutes After the Kiss– You might think there is nothing new in an oud-rose perfume. Perfumer Cristiano Canali will make you think again.

6. Masque Milano Lost Alice– Creative Directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi team-up with perfumer Mackenzie Reilly for a gourmand inspired by Alice’s Tea Party.

5, Francesca Bianchi Luxe Calme VolupteFrancesca Bianchi lives on the edge in her perfume making. This time it is the edge of sensual passion in this year’s sexiest fragrance.

4, Puredistance No. 12– Creative director Jan Ewoud Vos told me to give perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer’s perfume time to mature. When it did a magnificent powdery chypre was there to enjoy.

3. Rubini NuvolariAndrea Rubini and his creative team including perfumer Cristiano Canali take you for a drive on an F1 track all the way through the checkered flag.

2. Amouage Material– Creative director Renaud Salmon and perfumer Cecile Zarokian turn in the most audacious gourmand of the year using the tritest of ingredients, vanilla. By turning it inside out and back again they define something entirely new.

1. Amouage Silver Oud– All the reasons are in yesterday’s Perfume of the Year post. The short version: M. Salmon and Mme Zarokian made me care about oud again.

The Rest of the Top 35 in Alphabetical Order

Aesop Eremia– The apocalypse has never seemed so appealing.

Aftelier Perfumes Joie de VertMandy Aftel uses a vintage anise hyssop in a hymn to green.

Anatole Lebreton Racine Carre– This perfume is the answer to, “What is the square root of licorice?”

April Aromatics Wild Summer Crush– The exuberance of the summer and the possibilities of love explode on my skin with joy.

Chanel Paris-EdimbourgOlivier Polge is creating his own niche at Chanel with the Les Eaux. This is the best of them, so far.

Chris Collins African Rooibos– The best tea-inspired perfume of 2021.

Comme des Garcons Ganja– Everything Comme des Garcons has done well for thirty years, and counting is right here.

Diptyque Venise– This reminds you that Venice is not just water and canals. It is also the gardens on the islands.

DS & Durga St. Vetyver– I hear Jimmy Buffet in my head every time I wear this.

Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 + Iris– Sometimes things are simple. Geza Schoen adds iris to Iso E Super. It is as good as it gets.

Freddie Albrighton Mabel’s Tooth– The most fun I had with a perfume all year from a new independent perfumer.

Hedonik Divine PerversionFrancesca Bianchi’s leather line has a perfume to match.

La Curie GeistLesli Wood finds the wood smoke hanging in the pine trees.

Laboratorio Olfattivo Vanagloria– This is a version of a vanilla throw blanket from Dominique Ropion.

Maison Crivelli Lys SolabergNathalie Feisthauer takes you to summer in the Great White North as the lilies bloom.

Maison Crivelli Hibiscus Mahajad– Perfumer Quentin Bisch creates a red-colored gemstone floral.

Milano Fragranze Diurno– The best of the new line by creative director Alessandro Brun. Perfumer Julie Masse uses a brilliant Amaretto accord to call up the echoes of the Lost Generation.

Naomi Goodsir Corpus Equus– Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour forms a horsehair leather fragrance.

Parfum d’Empire Mal-AimeMarc-Antoine Corticchiato can make perfume from anything, including weeds.

Phoenecia Perfume Oud Elegance Rose and Oud Elegance Incense– Perfumer David Falsberg gave two visions of no BS oud. Both are enhanced by the ingenious use of a hyraceum tinctured alcohol.

Sarah Baker Loudo– This combination of a cherry cordial and oud was as compelling as it got.

Scents of Wood Plum in Cognac– This was the perfume which made Fabrice Croise’s concept come to gourmand life under perfumer Pascal Gaurin.

Shalini Fleur JaponaisShalini and perfumer Maurice Roucel make a delicate artistic perfume.

Tom Ford Private Blend Ebene Fume Rodrigo Flores-Roux wakes up the echoes of the early days of the brand.

Zoologist Snowy Owl– At the end of last year I eagerly awaited this collaboration between Victor Wong and perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Snowy Owl was even better than I could have imagined.

That’s a wrap for 2021. I’m looking forward to what 2022 has in store.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2021 Part 2: Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

Quantity versus quality is an eternal dichotomy. When it came to deciding these top categories for the year I was constantly faced with this dilemma. I ended up choosing two based on the quality of a couple perfumes and two from an impressive body of work. If you look at the runners-up you will see the choices I wrestled with.

Perfume of the Year: Amouage Silver Oud– Prior to this year I was over oud in perfumery. It was too often cloaked in PR nonsense. It was a cynical play to convince consumers there was something worth the price they were paying. Silver Oud from Amouage creative director Renaud Salmon and perfumer Cecile Zarokian deconstructed everything about oud as used in Western perfumery.

They created a fragrance of three accords. One was the typical oud accord present in most commercial perfumes. It contains no oud. Mme Zarokian made a more interesting version of it by using better materials, but it was still not the real thing. The heart is where the real Laotian oud shows up paired with a resinous vanilla from Madagascar. This is what oud can be. This oddly semi-gourmand version is not one of the more common pairings. The final accord is a smoked amber which usually stands alone as a simulacrum of oud. Given the foundation of genuine oud it provided a fascinating resonance that made this amazing. Ever since this arrived, I have enjoyed allowing it to show different shadings of oud to me. This has engaged my nose and my mind more than any other perfume this year.

Cecile Zarokian

Perfumer of the Year: Cecile Zarokian– Ever since 2013 this award was an inevitability. When I tried Majda Bekkali Mon Nom est Rouge, Mme Zarokian showed me she was an independent perfumer to keep an eye on. She has confirmed that assessment year after year. I was waiting for that moment when it all came together, 2021 was it.

She made two perfumes for Amouage which are among my Top 2 perfumes of the year. You see that Silver Oud is one of them. The other is Amouage Material. Mme Zarokian has been the most adventurous in expanding what we think of as a gourmand perfume. She has taken every opportunity to create new space within the genre. Material takes the tritest of gourmand ingredients, vanilla and wraps it in a series of complementary notes which illuminate it in a wonderfully different way. She does the same thing for oud in Silver Oud.

I also considered Nathalie Feisthauer who will figure prominently in the Top 25 and Cristiano Canali who made two brilliant perfumes. Mme Zarokian is my choice for Perfumer of the Year because both Material and Silver Oud were genius level examples of perfume construction.

Runners-Up: Francesca Bianchi, Cristiano Canali, Nathalie Feisthauer, David Falsberg, and Anne Flipo.

Thibaud Crivelli

Creative Director of the Year: Thibaud Crivelli, Maison Crivelli– It would have been easy to keep the Amouage award train running and naming M. Salmon to this honor. Except I have been having a discussion with a perfume friend about the role of creative director. How much do they have to do with the perfume that ends up being released? I am a believer that the best of them is critical to the long-term success. One way I can approach it is by asking this question, is the aesthetic of the brand retained through different perfumers. In other words, if I think a brand is doing great work and the only constant is the creative director that should indicate something.

When Thibaud Crivelli began Maison Crivelli he openly stated he wanted to create a fragrance collection of textures. Over eleven releases he has worked with eight different perfumers to deliver exactly that. 2021 has seen Osmanthe Kodoshan, Lys Solaberg, and Hibiscus Mahajad. Perfumers Stephanie Bakouche, Nathalie Feisthauer, and Quentin Bisch produced gorgeously textural wonders at M. Crivelli’s direction. This is what makes him my Creative Director of the Year for 2021.

Runners-Up: Christian Astuguevieille of Comme des Garcons, Myriam Badault of Diptyque, Alessandro Brun of Masque Milano and Milano Fragranze, Renaud Salmon of Amouage, and Victor Wong of Zoologist.

Brand of the Year: Diptyque– This year was the 60th anniversary of this brand. Creative director Myriam Badault was going to make sure it would not pass with a whimper. Instead, she oversaw a perfume selection beginning with Orpheon paying homage to the founders. Ilio as a reminder of the summery style this brand does so well. She finished the year with Kyoto and Venise which laid down a marker that this 60-year-old still has some innovative life left in it.

Runners-Up: Amouage, Maison Crivelli, Milano Fragranze, Zara, and Zoologist.

Tomorrow I reveal my Top 25 new perfumes of 2021.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2021 Part 1: Overview

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A year ago, I thought things might have been more normal by this time. Instead, 2021 has been like 2020 in that the usual ways of doing fragrance business pre-pandemic have been altered. I was able to try 621 new perfumes this calendar year. I want to thank all the people out there who make that number possible. I haven’t set foot in a store this year. The brands and stores I correspond with were almost always forthcoming in getting samples to me. I couldn’t go out into the world, but it showed up in my mailbox daily. That was because of these behind-the-scenes people. Nothing that I wrote about this year would have been possible without them.

There will not be a lot of things I’ll want to keep from these last two years. One of them is the direct communication with the brands. Without all the normal large perfume expositions the Internet took their place. Teleconferences announcing new launches allowed for the entire creative team to be present for a worldwide audience. There were a couple weeks at the beginning of the fall when I had one every other day. It allows the word to be spread much more widely than in the past. I hope it continues long after. The best version was the Masque Milano/Milano Fragranze/Malbrum Advent Calendar. Every day from December 1st through the 25th a short video on Instagram Live discussed what was in the daily box. The creative directors and perfumers all took time out of their Holidays to take part. There is even more potential for this kind of interaction going forward.

Francis Kurkdjian

The biggest news of the year was the changing of the guard at Dior perfume. Francis Kurkdjian takes over from Francois Demachy. I am hoping M. Kurkdjian injects some sorely needed relevancy back into this esteemed brand.

If there is something I hope fades quickly it is the idea of “clean” perfumes. This doesn’t mean clean smelling perfumes. It is the anti-science snake oil being pushed by some brands which insist that perfume is dangerous unless it is “clean”. There is no evidence that anything in any commercially released perfumes is dangerous. Anyone who tells you differently is also trying to sell you something, which is almost always an indication of the validity of the claim.

An unfortunate trend that has returned is the ghosting of perfumers again. Brands want to have their owners/creative directors act as if they are also the perfumers. This practice effectively ended in 2000 with Frederic Malle putting the names of the perfumers front and center on the labels of every Editions de Parfums. I don’t think they can successfully put the ghost back in the bottle. I am going to make sure that I reveal the perfumers name every time I find out, especially if they don’t want me to.

One of the trends this year was a re-thinking about the ubiquitous inclusion of oud in perfumes. I thought at the beginning of the year I was over oud the way I am for rose. This year saw several fragrances use it in traditional ways employing the real thing. Others finally used the wide array of tools at their disposal to think of oud in the same abstract way any other natural material has been translated into perfume. 2021 has me excited for the future of oud.

One thing I enjoyed a lot was pointing people to the outstanding modestly priced perfumes being sold at Zara. Jo Malone, Jerome Epinette, and Alberto Morillas did fantastic work for the brand. It is the best kept secret at the mall. To have a place to tell newly enthusiastic perfume lovers to go have fun in, made me smile. Which is what any year of fragrance should be about.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my perfume, perfumer, creative director, and brand of the year. Followed by my Top 25 new perfumes of 2021 the day after that. I hope you’ll follow along.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Sarah Horowitz Thran for American Perfumer Tapestry- Perfect Moment

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There are so many things I wish I knew that I found out later. One of those things is the knowledge that independent perfumers Sarah Horowitz-Thran and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz began their careers in a small DIY perfume shop on Newbury St. in Boston called Essence from 1989-1994. I blissfully walked past the shop not knowing two of the perfumers I would come to appreciate were steps away. Each of them was laying the foundation for their futures. In Ms. Horowitz-Thran’s case it was the formation of a nascent aesthetic encapsulated in her early perfume, 1999’s Perfect Veil. It is one of the best evocations of clean skin fresh from a shower. It was my introduction to her style of perfumery. I would eventually collect all the different “Perfect” perfumes. Each of them showed a perfumer defining the way she saw fragrance. They continue to be one of the best examples of an artist’s vision expressed through scent.

Dave Kern

She has continued to evolve and the idea of “Perfect” has been left behind for new aesthetics to emerge. She remains one of the best independent perfumers we have. When I received an e-mail from the owner of American Perfumer, Dave Kern notifying me that a Holiday limited release with Ms. Horowitz-Thran was on its way. I was excited. These limited editions have seen Mr. Kern work with an impressive roster of the best of the best in the independent perfume world. It was only a matter of time before this creative collaboration would happen. It has led to Sarah Horowitz-Thran for American Perfumer Tapestry.

Sarah Horowitz-Thran

One of the emerging themes of this collection is Mr. Kern asks his perfumers to bottle a memory. This is a common inspiration, yet in these cases there is a difference. That comes because these are small batch limited editions allowing them a wide-open palette to create from. For Tapestry she chooses to look homeward to Holiday family gatherings. This perfume weaves a story of the love at the center of this Season.

The first threads set in place are the seasonal scents of cinnamon and clove, they are the weave. The weft is a fascinatingly crisp green apple providing lift to the spices preventing them from becoming too heavy. The cross of ingredients continues as pine needles and jasmine add the next row. The terpenic nature of the pine strums the indoles in the heart of the jasmine. It produces a Holiday-like pine swag hung on the walls effect. The fireplace is represented with the smokiness of cade. Ms. Horowitz-Thran splices it through as a subtle presence with amber representing the glowing coals in the grate. The final piece is what sews it together as tobacco and vanilla spiral through all of it tying off the knots of this tapestry.

Tapestry has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I thought Ms. Horowitz-Thran had moved past her early collection. As I was wearing Tapestry the last few days it is so emblematic of a cozy family gathering that maybe it is the latest of her early perfumes. Call it Perfect Moment.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note 1: This is a limited edition of 50 bottles that will go on sale Saturday December 18, 2021 via lottery. To be entered send an e-mail to: dave@american-perfumer.com by Midnight on Friday December 17, 2021.

Editor’s Note 2: If you have any interest in those early days of Ms. Horowitz-Thran and Ms. Hurwitz back in Boston. Mr. Kern did a podcast with them. It can be found here on Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/american-perfumer/id1439938731 or under the American Perfumer podcast series wherever you download your podcasts.

New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Joie de Vert- Joy, Indeed

One of the best parts of the independent perfumers is they aren’t making metric tons of fragrance. The opposite is true. They can take a precious ingredient of which there is only enough for a limited edition and let it out into the hands of perfume lovers. Some of my favorites are introductions to heretofore unknown ingredients or specially aged or distilled versions of more common ingredients. In the hands of a perfumer who is sharing this kind of gift you hope for the best. Mandy Aftel goes far beyond that in Aftelier Perfumes Joie de Vert.

Mandy Aftel

Any regular reader knows I am an aficionado of green scents. Just the name, translated as Joy of Green led me to believe this was going to be something I was destined to enjoy. Ms. Aftel uses as the focal point of this perfume a twenty-year old artisanal batch of anise hyssop essential oil. This is a deeply licorice-like material. For those looking for a reference it is more Ricola than Twizzlers.

Licorice in perfume is at its best when it is intensely herbal. This anise hyssop oil is a softly herbal licorice that also contains a loamy forest floor green as part of its profile. From the first moments I smelled this I felt I was hiking through a deep forest. Glints of sunlight through the dense canopy come via orange. A woody herbalness vis coriander begins to form the trees. This sets the stage for a catalytic reaction as oakmoss, and fire tree oil exert themselves on the anise hyssop. The licorice-y piece never recedes but it does alter as the oakmoss adds a textural velvety greenness. The fire tree oil threads a slightly animalic facet into the green. This might be a forest but there are some things living out there. As this assembles itself there is a truly resplendent green in place.

Joie de Vert has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage. This wears quite close to the skin in a shimmery way.

If you are a fan of green ingredients in perfume this is something you must experience just to smell the anise hyssop oil. It is unlikely you will ever have another opportunity to try a 20 y.o. version again. It is the soul of natural perfumery of which Ms. Aftel has been a part of for decades now. Which brings me joy no matter what color it is in.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review April Aromatics Wild Summer Crush- Full Spectrum Perfume

As we inexorably march to the longest night of the year the Florida Boy wilts just a little every day. As sunset gets earlier and earlier with sunrise getting later and later, I cling to the precious daylight. I’ve tried it all to alleviate some of the dread. One of the things I found helped whether in reality or because I wanted it to, was adding full spectrum light bulbs to a couple of lamps where I sit. The idea of adding sunlight to the short days was a way of trying to push back against the tide. I should have looked closer at hand. Many of the citrus-based perfumes I have described as sunlight in a bottle were waiting for me. It has turned out to be the best way for me to battle these seasonal blues. I have a new weapon to brighten my days, April Aromatics Wild Summer Crush.

Tanja Bochnig is one of the best natural perfumers in the world. Over the years she has become an artist where she fuses her spirituality and her technique. It is what has made this brand one of my favorites. There are many independent perfumers who claim to do this Fr. Bochnig is one of the precious few who does.

Tanja Bochnig

Wild Summer Crush is a perfume which wears its heart on its atomizer. It is inspired by a summer crush of her young life. Most of us go through these intense short-lived affairs in our youth. They blaze with passion for a few weeks to be snuffed out by Labor Day. To capture that she compiles a scent bursting with natural energy. It is an easy reminder of heady times when the sunlight lasts late into the day.

The very first seconds fizz with a grapefruit unlike any other I have encountered. This is the same scent I get when I slice open a real one for breakfast. The tartness of rind, oil, and pulp are all here. Then the technique Fr. Bochnig has become adept at, is shading this kind of intensity. If the grapefruit is so brilliant to verge on too much. Precise amounts of mandarin, green tea, and yuzu adds compelling threads which create a gentler accord while retaining the energy. A floral heart is designed around rose and neroli. The green inherent in the neroli spears the citrus accord as the rose covers it in a subtle veil. As this moves towards the base, she again shows her expertise with shading. A set of light woods are given some texture through the sweetness of coconut and most impressively a precise tobacco. I can’t remember the last time I’ve encountered a more subtly impactful use of this.

Wild Summer Crush has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This year when I need to do battle with the encroaching darkness, I am throwing away the full spectrum light bulbs. Instead, I’m going to rely on the full spectrum perfume of Wild Summer Crush to do the job.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Puredistance No. 12- Wait For It

I am inherently an impatient person. During the Holidays every gift under the tree which had my name on it was thoroughly analyzed. I wanted to know what was in the box…Now! I am no different at the other times of the year. Once I get an itch for something I want it to arrive yesterday. All this is meant to let you know that one of the worst four-letter words for me is, wait. Except the creative director at Puredistance instructed me to do just that when he sent me my sample of Puredistance No. 12.

Jan Ewoud Vos

Jan Ewoud Vos has given me advice throughout the years on the eleven previous Puredistance releases. All of it has been important to my understanding and enjoyment of the perfumes. When he sent me the box with No. 12 in it, he warned me it was going to get better if I could only wait. He advised waiting at least 30 days for it to settle into its best form. Well, I couldn’t do exactly as he suggested. I thought the opportunity to experience the maturation of a perfume was something I could not pass up. So, I peeked in weekly. Spraying some on a strip every Monday and some on skin. This began a fantastic experience as I really got to know this perfume from M. Vos and perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer as it evolved in the bottle.

Nathalie Feisthauer

It took nine weeks for my nose not to detect a difference between two consecutive wearings. In each of those peeks I experienced a maturation as it became more expansive and fuller. In the first couple of weeks the focal point powderiness was far less than it would be weeks later. The Ambrox in the base was much more prominent in the first weeks, enough so that I feared it was going to deleteriously shape my opinion of the entire scent. By the end it becomes an integral part of it all. One of the few times where it provides the briny surrogacy of ambergris it was created to be. As the powderiness expanded and intensified, the Ambrox receded and supported to comprise a fantastic new composition.

The opening never changed very much as the combination of cardamom and coriander gave a fresh herbal beginning. The descent towards the powdery floral starts with a fleshy duo of narcissus and ylang-ylang. This was another part which was much more evident in the early weeks. By the time I got to the end they are more subtle setting a stage for the heart. That heart is constructed around orris, heliotrope and orange blossom as the powdery warhead of No. 12. Some vintage-like contrast is present in rose and osmanthus. This was another set of two ingredients which changed over the weeks. Early on they were less present than they would be later. That’s because Hedione is used to turn this into a cloud of powder. A glorious fog of iris tinted with the rose and Osmanthus which add complementary sparkles inside the cloud. This is such a fun piece of this perfume. It was like waiting for a ticking clock to strike the hour when this finally came fully together.

The base is meant to be a chypre. For the first couple of weeks, I was dubious because the Ambrox was being its overbearing self. I could detect the pieces down there under the monolith, but I didn’t think they were going to be allowed out. This was the most dramatic part of waiting. Each week that chypre became more pronounced. The sandalwood, vetiver, oak moss, and patchouli slowly formed despite the Ambox. Then on week seven a funny thing occurred. As the powderiness reached its apex it reveled a briny aspect of the Ambrox. It transformed the base accord into a compelling briny chypre.

Puredistance No. 12 has 24-hour longevity and average sillage in its extrait form.

The last couple of months I’ve spent watching No. 12 unfold has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done as a perfume writer. I’ve never felt the vividness of the development of a perfume more clearly. All I had to do was to follow M. Vos’ advice and wait for it.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Phoenecia Perfumes Oud Elegance Rose and Oud Elegance Incense- Where the Real Oud Is

There are so many things in perfumery which have started since the first number in the calendar year changed to 2. If there is an ingredient of the last 21 years which encapsulates the changes in Western fragrance it is the rise of oud from 2002 to the present day. To fragrance fans in the East oud is what many of them encounter in everyday life. For those of us who knew nothing of it the revelation was immediate. The craving for more almost insatiable, and so the brands gave us what we wanted. There was a time when it seemed every new release claimed oud in its ingredient list. In most of those cases it was an oud accord made up of less expensive materials given some texture with a tiny amount of the real thing. As perfume consumers became more sophisticated there were places to go encounter authentic oud essential oils. Once you smelled your first of those you could become lost in the pursuit of different varieties. One of my most prized perfume possessions is a little wooden box containing thirty single-sourced oud oils. I was one of those forever enchanted with the world of oud.

The unfortunate side effect is there are those who will claim to use real oud, who do not. Because relatively few have ever smelled the real thing most don’t know they aren’t. It has been something I have seen become more common in recent years. I’ve wanted to be able to point those who love oud to something where they can experience the real thing. Phoenecia Perfumes has given me that opportunity with the release of Oud Elegance Rose and Oud Elegance Incense.

David Falsberg

Phoenecia Perfumes is the brand of independent perfumer David Falsberg. Ever since discovering his fragrances in 2013 he has been a perfumer who uncompromisingly brings his vision to life. Part of that is it takes time. He releases new things as they feel right to him. He also must find the right sources for the ingredients which complete his scents. What comes out of this process are perfumes which provide an emotional response as well as an olfactory one.

For both new ouds he chooses classic pairings oud and rose, oud and incense. They are excellent choices because it makes it easy to compare to all the other versions of these duos out there. It allows anyone the opportunity to compare an authentic experience. One of the smart things he does is the alcohol used in both extrait strength fragrances is prepped with a tincture of Africa stone or hyraceum. It is an invitation into a deeper world of oud.

Oud Elegance Rose is a duet of both the named ingredients. He uses two roses from Morocco and Persia. He blends four different ouds. In both fragrances he has sourced them from ethical and/or sustainable sources. I feel certain that if he just put the two roses and four ouds in a bottle this would have been quite good. He uses a set of complementary notes to bring out the best in both. The inherently spicy roses are given an herbal contrast through rosemary along with a leathery glow in saffron. The oud is given some cedar to remind us that it is a wood and some civet to amplify the animalic heart of these ouds. Mr. Falsberg uses cumin to stitch these two pieces together with amber to provide a warmth not unlike the braziers oud chips are burned in.

Oud Elegance Incense follows a similar path in its development. Although the incense does get a moment to stand on its own. He takes an austere olibanum swathing it in a citrusy floral veil. It is a lovely opening as Mr. Falsberg has another blend of five ouds with which he uses as the incense’s partner. This comes together more naturally because at the core both oud and olibanum are resins. The difference is oud also has a woody component and that is enhanced through sandalwood. It adds a comforting woodiness underneath the incense and oud. The animalic side of oud is less present than it is in Oud Elegance Rose. it is probably the biggest difference in the oud part of the experience between the two. Depending on what appeals to you that might be the best way to choose only one.

Both extraits have 24-hour longevity and wear very close to the skin. Because of that these are very personal perfumes which can be worn anywhere.

Mr. Falsberg is one of my favorite independent perfumers because he does not compromise. He asks perfume lovers meet him on his own terms. If you make the choice to do that a fantastic new world awaits.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Phoenecia Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tauer Sundowner- A Holiday Perfume for the Rest of Us

As I begin to sort through the new perfume, I receive at the end of the year there is a category that ties to the Holidays. Many of those which fall into this are designed to be so. They are limited editions carrying Holiday themes on their sleeves. There are always a couple that aren’t meant to be seasonal releases, yet they fall ideally into the themes of this time of year. I think of them as Festivus scents. Festivus is an alternative to the commercialism of Christmas popularized in a Seinfeld episode. It also doesn’t want to be part of the season while still being part of the season. Tauer Sundowner is in this category.

Andy Tauer

Independent perfumer Andy Tauer wants Sundowner to represent a sunset cocktail on the Nile River. If I received this perfume in June I could easily have been transported there. Receiving my sample in the middle of November this had me in a Holiday mindset from the first spray. Even though a tobacco centered scent is not necessarily seasonal, Sundowner is full of those type of accents around the focal point.

Right away the tobacco is present. It is a nice leafy slightly narcotic version. No sooner do you experience it then some carolers show up in the presence of orange peel and cinnamon. These are Holiday stalwarts which Hr. Tauer gives a significant presence. The orange peel is an especially intense version of the citrus carrying a bitterness to tamp down the inherent brightness usually present. The song these three notes sing is pleasant. Made even better when rose adds a floral harmony to it.

As it develops the tobacco begins to be steered in a slightly gourmand direction. He used cacao and patchouli to add a chocolate complement to the tobacco. This is not a gooey chocolate it is subtler. He finds those inherent candy facets in the tobacco and picks out those strands delicately with the cacao and patchouli. It never really turns fully gourmand. Which has me thinking there must have been a preliminary version where it was more chocolaty which was dialed back to what is in Sundowner.

It finishes on an accord of cypriol and sandalwood forming an oud-like woodiness. It is sweetened with tonka bean and vanilla. Again, there is the hint of a gourmand buried deep but Sundowner never takes that path.

Sundowner has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Sundowner is not meant to be a seasonal fragrance. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t. I know I’ll be wearing this a lot over the next weeks. It’s a Holiday perfume for the rest of us.

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

Mark Behnke