Colognoisseur Best of 2020 Part 1: Overview

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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 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