I start this as I do every year; 2015 was a great year for perfume. It is easy to get cynical with the mountain of perfume that is out there; 99% of it forgettable and derivative. What I live for is the other 1% for within that tiny slice of releases is what makes me so interested in fragrance. I set a new personal yearly record in sniffing just under 700 new fragrances in 2015. That leaves me missing out on over 900 new releases as there were 1676 new releases in 2015. Let me see if I can share with you some of my optimism about the perfume industry.
As some of our greatest perfumers like Jean-Claude Ellena and Jacques Polge prepare to retire you want to see the next generation of perfumers. 2015 displayed a number of strong releases from a quartet of young perfumers Cristiano Canali composed Rubini Fundamental and Masque Milano Romanza. Luca Maffei did two of the Jul et Mad Les Whites; Nea and Garuda. Cecile Zarokian did two for Parfums MDCI Cio Cio San and Les Indes Galantes. Julien Rasquinet did Histoires de Parfums Fidelis and Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre.
In the American independent perfume community there was also continued great work from the likes of Josh Lobb at slumberhouse with Kiste. Shelley Waddington had her own En Voyage Frida and Zoologist Hummingbird. Bruno Fazzolari’s homage to The Shining, Room 237, was fantastic.
There was also a coterie of brand new perfume brands which were memorable for me this year. Holladay Saltz’s Apoteker Tepe, Atelier des Ors, Orlov Paris, Vilhelm, Unum, and Dasein. None of them made me smile more that Stephen Dirkes’ Penny Dreadful as perfume multi-media releases for Euphorium Brooklyn. This is fragrance as fun and I was happy to go along for the ride.
I noticed there was a greater embrace of the synthetic in perfume. Starting with Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection all the way through to the four inaugural releases for Nomenclature. These brands were unafraid to show the versatility a synthetic can display.
The mainstream offerings at the mall also had a strong year and in a year where Miu Miu, Alaia, and Marc Jacobs Decadence all stood out for offering something different in the mall that is a good trend.. It also saw a strong year for a niche brand that now has a strong department store presence, Jo Malone; Mimosa & Cardamom and Orris & Sandalwood are among the best in that very extensive line.
For every brand on the upswing there were a few who had less memorable years. 2015 was entirely forgettable for Comme des Garcons, Serge Lutens and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. The latter will particularly set off alarms because it was just a year ago that Estee Lauder bought Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle and Le Labo. It is highly unlikely anyone at Estee Lauder had anything to do with Cologne Indelible. Conversely they can’t take credit for one of my favorites this year Le Labo The Noir 29. For me it will be what we see in 2016 that will give a true indication on how these brands will change.
I end on a personal note. A year ago I mentioned my enthusiasm for The Art & Olfaction Awards overseen by Saskia Wilson-Brown of The Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles. This year I have gone from cheering on the sidelines to being one of the Finalist Judges. Of everything that has happened in 2015 this is my favorite development. 2015 will not truly end until I choose from a set of unlabeled vials to pick the best of 2015.
Tomorrow I will name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.
The next day will be my Top 25 New Perfumes of 2015.