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

Colognoisseur Holiday Perfume Buyers Guide 2019 Part 3- Cyber Monday

The last part of the Holiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide is for those of you who like to do your shopping online. Cyber Monday has become the day when this hits its peak as online retailers offer online-only deals. Buying perfume online is an especially tricky business. For this piece of the Buyer’s Guide I am going to suggest a couple things which are easier to get online.

The first suggestion is what I think is the absolute best gift for anyone in your circle who loves perfume. Michael Edwards the man behind the perfume database Fragrances of the World released a new book this fall; Perfume Legends II. It is a large format coffee table book. It tells the history of modern perfumery in 52 bottles from the first, Fougere Royale, to 2010’s Portrait of a Lady. What makes this so fascinating is Mr. Edwards also examines the impact of perfume societally as he moves through each successive chapter. He accompanies each entry with archival photos and pictures of the bottles, of course. It is as beautiful to look at as it is educational to read. For Cyber Monday and the entire Holiday season I have a discount code which will allow you to take 10% off the price if you enter COL19 at this link.

The other great online choice for anyone interested in perfume is a subscription box. These are services which send you monthly selections to try and eventually buy if you like them. My favorite of them is Ofactif. You can take a subscription for as little as a month or as long as a year with almost any fraction available. For the term of your subscription you will receive a box containing three samples of niche perfumes. Each has cards accompanying it telling you about the creative team, style of perfume, and the note list. Each sample is enough for anyone to wear the perfume for a few days. This has been one of the best ways for small brand independent perfumes to be available to those who aren’t in large urban areas. For Cyber Monday they are offering across the board discounts on their website.

My final suggestion is for a copy of the perfume magazine Nez. Published twice-a-year it is a compendium of many great articles, interviews with perfume makers, and perfume reviews.
Each issue is the pinnacle of perfume editorial content. On their website you can buy a subscription or an individual issue.

I hope everyone has a fabulous Holiday Season and something I have suggested ends up in someone’s hands.

Disclosure: I was given a copy of Perfume Legends II from the publisher. I subscribe to Ofactif on my own. I have purchased the issues of Nez I own.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Holiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide 2019 Part 2- Support Your Local Perfumery

One of my favorite initiatives for Holiday shopping was begun in 2010. The brainchild of the American Express company it was meant to turn the day after Black Friday into something local; Small Business Saturday. It is meant to encourage shoppers’ attention to the small shops in their local area and to spend the day shopping there.

For perfume lovers these are the stores which give shelf space to the most creative independent brands. Almost always owned by people who also adore perfume. These are the ambassadors who show people there is more to perfume than the mainstream. For this year’s buyer’s guide I am going to focus on some stores which produced their own perfumes. Along with some other independent brands which have produced notable new releases this year.

The Creative Director as Store Owner

For a column like this I am going to start locally with Arielle Shoshana Sunday. Owner of the shop Arielle Shoshana in Arlington, VA Arielle Weinberg oversees her second collaboration with perfumer Cecile Hua. This time they make a one-of-a-kind gourmand around a pairing of matcha tea and the Mexican drink horchata.

Dave Kern has been releasing limited editions under the name of his perfumery American Perfumer in Louisville, KY. He won an Art & Olfaction Award for last year’s collaboration with perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz; Colorado. These are limited editions which have generally sold out. This year’s version with perfumer Hans Hendley, Bloodline, was gone in a day. Mr. Hendley has other perfume which is more available. Hans Hendley Bourbon captures the sweetness of whiskey encased in woods. It is an ideal Holiday season style of fragrance.

I only recently tried the perfumes overseen by owner Nir Guy of the store Perfumology in King of Prussia, PA. This year’s release Perfumology L’Ima continues his work with perfumer Justin Frederico. A fantastic mixture of the smell of the summer garden. Tomato leaf, citrus, florals, and warm amber capture the milieu.

Other Great Indie Perfume of 2019

You should be able to find these perfumes at smaller boutiques all of which usually have online sales.

Bogue Douleur! takes you from metallic rose to strawberry cotton candy.

Dasein Winter Green is a Holiday mixture of mint and Christmas tree.

Hiram Green Lustre is an all-natural rose soliflore of uncommon quality.

Maison Violet Un Air d’Apogee is a tobaccoed floral which captures the retro nouveau aesthetic.

Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede is an amazing lightweight leather.

Masque Milano Kintsugi reconstructs the broken chypre into a new modern form.

Monsillage Route du Quai is a unique take on the aquatic which captures the flow of a large freshwater river.

Providence Perfume Co. Drunk on the Moon is a slightly boozy tuberose from one of the best indie perfumers.

Roberto Greco Oeilleres is a throwback style of perfume which uses an overdose of chamomile to make an artistic thesis.

Rogue Perfumery Chypre-Siam is an old-school chypre as filtered through a Thai restaurant.

Rubini Tambour Sacre captures the rhythms of the Horn of Africa in golden tones.

Ryan Richmond Rich Mess is anything but a mess; it is a mesmerizing kinetic blend.

Get out and shop this Saturday and every other shopping day. It is the support of local perfume lovers which keep these stores going.

Disclosure: All the perfumes mentioned provided samples from the brand.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Holiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide 2019 Part 1- At The Mall

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It is Thanksgiving in the US. It is also the pause before the frantic Holiday shopping season. Which will begin at about the same time the dishwasher is turned on in most homes. Black Friday has now encroached on the day before.

Fragrance is always a popular choice as a gift. I think it can be a difficult effort because we all experience scent so differently. I have posted a way which requires some extra steps but can make perfume an intimate gift at this link.

For most everyone else they are just going to be faced with sales reps trying to tell you this is the best perfume ever. They’re probably incorrect but you never know. To help navigate the season I am going to spend the next three days with different buyer’s guides. Today in Part 1 it is what has come out over the past year at the mall. Tomorrow in Part 2 for Small Business Saturday I will focus on small stand-alone perfume boutique offerings. Finally, in Part 3 for Cyber Monday I’ll have some suggestions for things to click on and get delivered to your home.

This list should all be available at large department stores. Links to the full reviews can be found in the names.

Aerin Rose Cocoa followed up last year’s Holiday offering of Cocoa Woods. This is a gently spicy rose gourmand perfume where the cocoa acts as chocolate snow upon the rose.

Bastide Verveine du Sud is a perfume from the husband-and-wife team of Frederic and Shirin Fekkai inspired by their Provence home. Verveine du Sud is a Provencal twilight as the cool night meets the green florals.

By Rosie Jane Lake is a new discovery by me but I admire the well-blended perfumes of the brand for their simple aesthetic. Lake takes you on a fall hike around Lake Tahoe.

Chanel Gabrielle Essence follows the release of Gabrielle two years ago. Perfume Olivier Polge turns Gabrielle Essence into a sweeter floral than its predecessor which I think exudes a greater assurance.

Ellis Brooklyn West is another release from Bee Shapiro’s excellent line of fragrance. Working again with perfumer Jerome Epinette they create an unusual citrus perfume featuring basil and blood orange.

M. Epinette is also the nose behind Floral Street Ylang Ylang Espresso. In this case he takes a fractionated version of ylang ylang which is contrasted with a bitter oily coffee bean accord. If you’re sick of sweet gourmands, this is a great alternative.

Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree is a perfume which wanted to be a modern floral for a contemporary woman. Perfumer Christine Nagel uses herbal baie rose, powdery rose, and a less earthy patchouli to create a simply elegant perfume.

If you need a cologne for the men in your life who only want a bottle or two, Zaharoff Signature pour Homme is exactly that. Perfumer Claude Dir creates a classic woody fougere that feels young instead of dated. Probably the best thing on the Men’s Fragrance counter at the mall today.

I am going to end with a suggestion that you should be careful about buying for someone who doesn’t wear a lot of perfume. But you should absolutely consider it for anyone in your circle who is a perfume fan.

Gucci Memoire d’une Odeur is unlike anything else in the mass-market sector. Creative director Alessandro Michele and perfumer Alberto Morillas are asking the provocative question, will consumers take a step out of their comfort zone. This is an incredibly intricate perfume focused on the edgy floral chamomile. It is the kind of perfume which comes around so rarely in the mainstream.

To all my US readers Happy Thanksgiving! To everyone else I hope this helps you when you end up at the perfume counter.

Disclosure: The manufacturers provided samples of all the perfumes mentioned.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2019 Hopes and Wishes

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I close out 2018 with a look for what I am hoping and wishing for in 2019.

I’m still coming to grips with the loss of independent perfumer Vero Kern. For 2019 I am hoping that a new independent perfumer who embodies Fr. Kern’s indefatigable spirit paired with her love of perfume making appears. I’ve heard nature abhors a vacuum; let’s see if that is true.

I wish for my favorite niche brands to push the edges of their aesthetic a little bit more. It is perverse that I have asked over the last few years for an expansion of niche brands. I’ve largely seen that come true. The price seems to have been a 2018 where those brands stayed right in the center of what they do best. This produced good perfume without inspiring me. The creative teams behind all these brands have already shown they can produce wonderful innovative perfumes before. Let 2019 show that spirit again.

American Perfumer in Louisville, Kentucky

I have a very selfish wish for the success of a single store; Dave Kern’s shop dedicated to American independent perfume in Louisville, Kentucky called American Perfumer. I generally wish every small brick and mortar store which sells niche and independent perfumes in their local community success; that hasn’t changed. Mr. Kern is exclusively working with the American indies who have had one of the best years in 2018 I can remember. It seems like with that as a start supplemented with exclusive limited editions, he should hopefully have a successful 2019.

I really wish that the Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio collection could be made available outside of Mexico. The eight perfumes in this collection are examples of the best niche perfumery has to offer. It comes from a place deep within the hearts of creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. I am sure there are exclusivity contracts which prohibit this, but this is a list of wishes not business realities. In that spirit I’ll add one more; maybe they could be available in an Arquiste boutique.

My final wish is for a continuation of the exceptional creativity I saw in 2018 in the indie perfumes and young brands. I think a lot of it is because the ones I am talking about have been around long enough that they are secure in their business plan allowing for their artistic plan to flourish. If that hypothesis is correct this is probably the one wish which will definitely be realized in 2019.

As always, I want to wish all the readers of Colognoisseur a Happy New Year. My thanks for spending a little time reading my blog over the past year. Let’s see, together, what 2019 will bring.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2018: Part 3- The Top 25 New Perfumes of the Year

This year I tried 701 new perfumes. To keep that in perspective, it is about 30% of all new perfume released in 2018. The Top 25 below represents the best 3.6% of what I encountered this year

The Top 5 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)

5. Cartier Carat– The best mainstream release of 2018 it is a celebration of the skill of Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent. It is simply described as a transparent formula. What Mme Laurent put in the bottle was a faceted floral jewel which changed as you looked at each facet. A kaleidoscopic perfume that helped me embrace the potential of the transparent trend which is here to stay in perfume.

4. Providence Perfume Co. Vientiane– Independent perfumer Charna Ethier fused a jasmine rice tincture to a tower of sandalwood. It resulted in a perfume which gave me new insight into one of the most venerable notes in perfumery. It also is a testament to Ms. Ethier’s skill to shine a light into those spaces.

3. April Aromatics Irisistible– This is the culmination of all of the efforts perfumer Tanja Bochnig has produced over the years for her April Aromatics brand. Each release over the last couple of years has been better than the last. Irisistible will be a perfume Fr. Bochnig will find difficult to top. A floral rainbow with a rooty iris as the most brilliant band of color.

2. Neela Vermeire Creations NiralNeela Vermeire has successfully found the perfume place where her Indian and French sensibilities overlap. It has produced one of the best independent perfume collections on the market. Mme Vermeire has worked exclusively with perfumer Bertrnad Duchaufour. For Niral they undertook the concept of capturing Tussar silk as a perfume. It is something I think could only have been made by a creative director and perfumer who have been working together for years. Niral flows in shimmering silken waves of iris that slither through the air opulently.

1. Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio GuayabosThere is a much longer explanation in Part 2 of the Best of 2018 posts. For this list I’ll keep it short; the best Arquiste along with the best perfume by Rodrigo Flores-Roux.

The Rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order

4160 Tuesdays Freeway– Sarah McCartney had an incredibly creative 2018. Her evocation of LA was the best one.

A Lab on Fire And The World Is Yours– This combination of neroli and cumin captures the morning after when the rising sun signals the end of the party.

Aftelier AlchemyMandy Aftel looked back to her beginning which allowed Alchemy to confirm her vision has never strayed.

aromaM Geisha Botan– Maria McElroy composed a spring floral featuring peony; I wish more did it like this.

Avon Velvet– Best Bang for the Buck perfume on the list. Perfumer Gabriela Chelariu proves it’s the perfumer and not the ingredients in a lush fig-rose-patchouli perfume that smells like it belongs on the top shelf.

Blackbird Y06-S– Nicole Miller produced an envelope-pushing skanky jasmine and banana fragrance which I can’t forget.

Commodity Nectar– This brand has become the most reliable economical brand by allowing perfumers the freedom to create as they wish. Mathieu Nardin used that to create a summery neroli

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for American Perfumer Colorado Dave Kern commissioned two limited editions for his new American Perfumer store. This one by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz captures the slope of the Rockies right outside Ms. Hurwitz’s door.

DSH Perfumes Summer Cologne– Ms. Hurwitz was also equally creative for her own line as this tomato leaf twist on the classic eau de cologne was the best version of this form in 2018.

Frassai A Fuego Lento– This brand creatively directed by Natalia Outeda debuted in 2018. A Fuego Lento by Rodrigo Flores-Roux is a jasmine-leather stunner.

Hermes Hermessence Cardamusc– In-house perfumer Christine Nagel makes the Hermessence collection her own with an oil formulation of cardamom, in overdose, and musks.

Hiram Green HydeHiram Green puts together a birch tar all-natural leather perfume that grabs you and does not let go.

Jo Malone Jasmine Sambac & Marigold– Creative director Celine Roux has overseen a creative rebirth at Jo Malone. Jasmine Sambac & Marigold, by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui, is the best example of that in 2018.

Jovoy Remember Me– If you need evidence that gourmand perfumes can be amazing this is it. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian melds delicate florals over strong black tea.

L’Iris de Fath– Creative director Rania Naim believed she could re-formulate Iris Gris. The proof of that belief is in the bottle.

Maison Rebatchi Joyeux OsmantheMohamed Rebatchi is the creative director of a new brand making a splash. Working with perfumer Maurice Roucel osmanthus stands up to tuberose; gorgeously.

Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower The second limited edition from Dave Kern and the American Perfumer store. Maria McElroy weaves a story of youth and adulthood on the edge of the desert. All using rare Arabian oils.

Pekji Zeybek– The best new brand of 2018 goes to Pekji from Omer Ipecki. A strong debut collection of five perfumes is headed by this abstract perfume vision of the horse barn.

strangeloveNYC lostinflowers– Creative director Elizabeth Gaynes came home from a trip to India with a champaca extract called “joy oil”. When she asked perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to use it in a perfume it gave me a lot of joy.

Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex– There is a part of me that thinks creative director Victor Wong and perfumer Antonio Gardoni came up with the idea of a prehistoric jungle on fire as a joke. The perfume is no joke. It is a completely original perfume.

An extra 3.5%; or the 23 perfumes which just missed being on the list above

A Lab on Fire Hallucinogenic Pearl– the De Laire bases return in a violet and iris perfume.

Acqua di Parma Chinotto di Liguria– Another classic Mediterranean style cologne

Aether Arts Perfume The AI Series– A set of fiercely intelligent perfumes which invaded my thoughts

Blocki Sanrovia– Sandalwood from a heritage brand with an eye on the future.

Britney Spears Prerogative– Best celebrity perfume of 2018

Bruno Fazzolari Fontevraud– A deconstructed chypre that actually was

Chanel 1957– A gleaming glass and metal tower of white musks

Diptyque Tempo– Thoroughly modern patchouli

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Music For A While– Who knew I wanted lavender to go with pineapple.

Fath’s Essentials Red Shoes– One of perfumer Cecile Zarokian’s best.

Gucci Bloom Nettare di Fiori– Best flanker of 2018

Heeley Blanc Poudre– The smell of laundered warm cotton

Imaginary Authors Whispered Myths– Josh Meyer tries something different.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Mont de Narcisse– A leather, narcissus, and immortelle beauty.

Louis Vuitton Nouveau Monde– The leather I wanted from LV.

Masque Milano (homage to) Hemingway– A full-spectrum vetiver

McQueen Collection Sacred Osmanthus– Transparent osmanthus soliflore

Terre d’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver– Christine Nagel brings the vetiver forward

Molton Brown Muddled Plum– Boozy fruity gourmand

Nest Cocoa Woods– A perfume that lives up to both nouns in its name.

Providence Perfume Co. Lemon Liada– A citrus perfume where lemon is front and center with no lemon being used.

Tom Ford Private Blend Lost Cherry– First Private Blend which felt like the early days of the brand.

Zoologist Hyrax– Funkiest, in a good way, perfume of 2018.

That’s it for 2018.

Part 1 Overview of 2018

Part 2 Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2018: Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

2

Part 1, yesterday, was my look back at the year in broad terms. Today in Part 2 I get specific naming the best of the year in four categories.

Perfume of the Year: Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio GuayabosArquiste Creative Director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux began their exclusive collection for luxury Mexican department store El Palacio de El Hierro in 2016. As of the end of 2018 they have released eight perfumes exploring the botany of Mexico in a set of “tree stories”. Both creative minds behind this collection have always put a little bit of their homeland of Mexico in every Arquiste release they have collaborated on. Saying that, this collection feels like there is heart and soul, along with the country, within each of these excellent perfumes.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux (l.) and Carlos Huber

During the summer I received Guayabos which immediately connected with me. I have worn this weekly since I received it. I’ve sprayed my bed with it. The poodles have inadvertently ended up smelling like it. It is one of the very best perfumes ever made by Sr. Flores-Roux.

I scheduled a call with him at Givaudan to find out how this came together. The concept was to create a guava perfume which captured the ripe guava in his house as child. As an adult the perfumer had to undertake headspace analysis of green guava, ripe guava, and guava blossom. This would lead to a layered effect which captured the esencia of guava. Jasmine and osmanthus provide the perfect floral companions over a clean woody base accord.

Guayabos is my perfume of the year because it was an obra de amor (labor of love) for Srs. Flores-Roux and Huber.

Charna Ethier

Perfumer of the Year: Charna Ethier– 2018 is going to be memorable for the excellent independent perfumer releases. The independent perfumer who had the strongest year was Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. She has been one of the most consistently innovative perfumers I encounter. 2018 is the year where that quality overflowed in three spectacular releases. The first was Vientiane a study in sandalwood which was elevated by a jasmine rice tincture. Next came Lemon Liada an abstraction of lemon eau de cologne with no lemon used as an ingredient. Sedona Sweetgrass captures the scent of the American desert southwest in a photorealistic manner.

The breadth of these three perfumes is not only testament to why the indies rocked 2018 but more specifically why Charna Ethier is my Perfumer of the Year.  

Runner-Ups: Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Maria McElroy, Cecile Zarokian, and Sarah McCartney

Rania Naim

Creative Director of the Year: Rania Naim– How about this for a to-do list for 2018? Take on the reformulation of one of the great historic perfumes. While doing that create four new contemporary perfumes honoring that history. That would sink most creative directors. That Rania Naim succeeded makes her the easy choice as Creative Director of the Year.

The first part of the year was given over to completing the new formulation of Jacques Fath Iris Gris. Mme Naim oversaw a painstaking effort to achieve something amazing in L’Iris de Fath. She would end up trusting a young creative team to accomplish this; which succeeded spectacularly. The decision to trust in young creative perfumers extends to the Fath’s Essentials releases where perfumers Cecile Zarokian and Luca Maffei produced two perfumes each under Mme Naim’s direction. All four exemplify the creativity still able to be found in the niche sector.

Capturing the past while living in the present means the future is all that is left to Rania Naim; my choice for Creative Director of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Carlos Huber (Arquiste), Victor Wong (Zoologist Perfumes), and Celine Roux (Jo Malone)

Brand of the Year: A Lab on Fire– If other brands weren’t going to show me something different Carlos Kusubayashi allowed perfumer Dominique Ropion to capture “The Morning After” winning an Academy award in And The World Is Yours. A long night into day encapsulated by neroli and cumin. This was followed up by perfumer Emilie Coppermann combining violet along with the De Laire base of Iriseine in a gorgeous purple flower melody called Hallucinogenic Pearl. Mr. Kusubayashi has never been afraid to release what comes of giving perfumers the space to create freely. In 2018 it makes A Lab on Fire my Brand of the Year.

Runner-Ups: DSH Perfumes, 4160 Tuesdays, Arquiste, Jacques Fath, and Jo Malone

Part 1 was my broad overview of 2018

Part 3 is my Top 25 New Perfumes of 2018.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2018: Part 1- Overview

1

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

Transparent New Clothes for The Emperor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke