Colognoisseur Best of 2020 Part 1: Overview

1

That 2020 has been an unusual year would be an understatement. None of the fragrance expos. No trips to NYC for perfume events. Instead it turned out to be a different kind of exploration. I’ve been hovering around 650-700 new perfumes tried every year since I started Colognoisseur nearly seven years ago. If you asked me in May if I would be close to that I would’ve been skeptical. Yet when I look at the last line on my 2020 spreadsheet the number reads 634.

One of the reasons it is close to a normal year is I reached out to some new lines for samples. Over the course of the year I was able to delve into new independent perfumers; Jorum Studios, Libertine, Baruti, Christele Jacquemin, and Chronotope. It was a great experience which allowed me to see developing aesthetics in one piece. It was brands like these which provided that fun of finding something new which usually comes from Esxence or Pitti.

One of the trends that seemed to expand dramatically was that of reviewers becoming creative directors of their own perfumes. Most of these were as cynical as the mainstream releases using focus groups to design their fragrances. They just tried to decide what their readers/subscribers liked best based on measured response and made something to reflect that. That’s just a focus group in a different costume. There is a fantastic template for anyone serious about doing this. Just look at Victor Wong of Zoologist. He has gone from Facebook to the Fragrance Foundation Perfume Extraordinaire Award this year. He makes perfumes he likes while trusting there is an audience. So far, he has been right.

Renaud Salmon of Amouage

Amouage went through a big change as new creative director Renaud Salmon took charge. Over the course of the last half of the year M. Salmon reassured me that this important brand is going to do well as it moves in a different direction. I believe it will continue to be one of the key creative brands in perfumery.

This was also a year for some truly odd accords for perfumes to be built upon. One which repeated over and over was the scent of horse. Maison D’Etto’s entire collection is based on horses from creative director Brianna Lipovsky’s life. Ignacio Figueras Palm Beach and Sarah Baker Bascule also brought some thoroughbreds to the party.

Wet cardboard was the centerpiece of Nez 1+1 Folia. Clay pottery formed the nucleus of Jazmin Sarai Fayoum. Freddie Albrighton and Antonio Gardoni challenged me with one of the most difficult fragrances of the year in Douleur!2. It walks right on the edge of unpleasant, which was its intent.

The gourmand style of perfume continues to evolve as 2020 was bookended by Rasei Fort Cielito Lindo and Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Madeleine. Both finding a new level for the genre.

If there was one thing I realized as I was looking back over the year I must have written a riff on the following a lot this year. “The dual nature of iris as both powdery and rooty was on display”. 2020 is the year of iris. It is also the year of great iris perfumes as you will see as I unveil the list of the best of the year.

I also want to close this overview with a thanks to everyone on the perfume side who assisted me in getting perfume sent to me. I may not have left the house, but the world of perfume showed up on my doorstep daily.

My other thanks are to the readers of this blog. In this ridiculous year of uncertainty writing for you every day was one of the few bits of normalcy which remained for me. I cherish that you choose to share my passion for perfume by dropping by.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my picks for Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director and Brand of the Year. That will be followed by my Top 25 new perfumes of 2020.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bogue Douleur!2- Risk as Reward

Blessed are the risk takers. The corollary to that is “damned are the risk takers”. If you decide to create a challenging perfume you are putting yourself on a high wire without a net. I always admire the effort. Last year one set of risk takers who were blessed were perfume Antonio Gardoni who collaborated with Freddie Albrighton on Bogue Douleur! It was an edgy homage to the ingredient rose oxide. They are back to further explore that ingredient in Bogue Douleur!2.

Antonio Gardoni

Last year the first release by these two surprised me because it went in different directions than I expected. This time around some of what the two creatives enjoy most find a place in the sequel.

Freddie Albrighton

While Sig. Gardoni and Mr. Albrighton like certain ingredients some of them are problematic for me. a year ago I likened the opening of Douleur! to chewing tin foil. In Douleur!2 the opening is tough for me again. It is a mixture of a watery vegetal ingredient along with mint, tea tree oil, and something which smells like low tide. There is “oyster” listed as a note, so I am guessing this is it. This forms a miasmatic accord that was tough to work through.  This is as if the mint and tea tree oil are camouflage for decaying things. I kept thinking of a bottle of tea tree mint air freshener sprayed over the tidal flats after the sun has decayed what has left behind.

Last time I wanted something to take over from the rose oxide. This time the rose oxide was a lifeline. It is met with a synthetic white floral. Over the final phases Douleur!2 takes on the appearance of a vintage-like base with a mix of animalics and resins. The rose oxide is what keeps this from going fully in that direction. The metallic nature ensures it.

Douleur!2 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This time around the opening accord was more difficult for me to put behind me. It colors my overall feeling about this. I do think the composition and risks taken make sense given the design. This is a perfume that I believe achieves what these two wanted. Which is why it is a fantastic artistic achievement worthy of praise. Just don’t ask me to wear it again.

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

Mark Behnke