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

Book Review The Ghost Perfumer by Gabe Oppenheim- The Emperor Exposed

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I’ve written about perfume for over ten years. For all that time I’ve been aware of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” aspect of the brand PR machines. An endless litany of BS encapsulating supposed celebrities who wear the fragrance. Or long pedigrees all the way back through every king and queen since Julius Caesar and Cleopatra. Blah, blah, blah, yadda yadda, yadda, who cares; just let me see what the perfume smells like. Where I draw the line is when the perfumer, the artist behind the juice is hidden to inflate someone else’s ego. This type of dishonesty is whispered about behind the scenes, but nobody has been strong enough to point out these would-be Emperors are naked in public. That changes with the publication of the book “The Ghost Perfumer” by Gabe Oppenheim.

Gabe Oppenheim

Mr. Oppenheim takes writing about perfume in an entirely different direction. For the first time an author takes on the darker side of the business. Now twenty years on after the revolution in thinking about perfume it is long past time for truth-tellers to begin examining things. The Ghost Perfumer starts this with an explosive expose on one of the biggest perfume brands in the world Creed.

Creed has been one of the leading luxury brands of fragrance. The putative story is they are a brand which has been worn by celebrities while also being “royal perfumers” for over a century. For anyone who cared to, that kind of nonsense was easily exposed if anyone thought about it. That is not what this book is about it is the con game run by the man behind the brand which drives the narrative.

For as long as I’ve written about Creed the story has been Olivier Creed is the whole deal, creative director and perfumer. When I’ve e-mailed asking for confirmation of this that is the story they tell me. It always seemed unlikely. Mr. Oppenhem exposes it as a sham.

The book tells the story of M. Creed and how he created the concept of Creed fragrance. The more important piece of this book is the perfumer behind the perfumes which established this mega-brand is identified, Pierre Bourdon.

Olivier Creed (photo:Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times)

If there is anything about the last twenty years of perfumery the ability of perfumers to take their rightful place as artists and authors has been emblematic. M. Creed took the concept of a silent perfumer a.k.a. a ghost to an extreme. He took advantage of a creative mind who didn’t believe in himself in M. Bourdon while taking credit for it all.

Mr. Oppenheim tells the story of these two men from their beginnings until today. He writes in an engagingly easy to read style. When I received my advance copy, I couldn’t put it down. His chapters end like your favorite streaming shows. He leaves you saying, “I’m going to read just one more chapter” until you find yourself at the end.

For anyone who loves perfume and owns any of the Creeds this is a mind-expanding story. Thoroughly researched to completely explain the personal and perfume dynamics of these two men. It ends with the sale of Creed for $1 billion in March of last year. Olivier cashing in on his grift. The coda takes place as Mr. Oppenheim and perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu visit M. Bourdon at his home in France. This is where an artist at peace with his place in this story resides.

Besides the story of Messrs. Bourdon and Creed Mr. Oppenheim shows how the scam continued with new perfumers. The perfumer behind Aventus, Jean-Christophe Herault gave a single interview before being shut down. Julien Rasquinet who composed Royal Oud and others never found the courage to speak with the author. In the end it is M. Bourdon safely retired who can finally have the last word.

Pierre Bourdon (from the book The Ghost Perfumer)

There is a passage towards the end of the book which encapsulates my thoughts after finishing it, “But I like to imagine the dynamic thusly: Since Olivier’s installation in a kind of fragrance industry throne was the result of his own agitprop, its debunking will force his metaphorical step-down- will thereby render his long reign in that chair mere seat-warming, a preparation for the rightful occupant to assume the spot. It will be Pierre’s seat…because it always has been.” This is the real punchline here. M. Bourdon’s reputation is enhanced while the ersatz Emperor seeks the egress albeit with a $1B check in his pocket.

Since the title page says this is “Part 1” I believe we are going to have this new vital perspective Mr. Oppenheim brings to the observation of the industry for a few more installments. We need a voice willing to do the legwork to expose the other Emperors while elevating the Artists. He seems poised to be that.

Disclosure: This review was based on an advance copy supplied by the author.

Mark Behnke

DIS- connect: A Story of Strange Attractors

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For as long as I’ve been writing about perfume I have believed it to be an art form. This is a position I have to defend because of the sheer commercialism behind most manufactured fragrance. The advent of independent perfumery has allowed for fragrance to find places to shed the commerce in search of the truth that art points to. Over the last twenty years there have been more and more opportunities for scent to be seen through an artistic lens. The latest effort is called DIS- connect.

DIS- connect is a collaboration between Design Artist Francesca Gotti, Photographic Artist Francesco Romero, and Perfume Artist Omer Ipecki. Sig.ra Gotti is one of my favorite people I have ever met in perfumery. I have only met her a handful of times when I have been at the Italian fragrance expos. She creates sculptural enclosures for fragrance. Sig. Romero and I have never met but we have shared the perfume blogosphere for many years. I have been struck by his photography many times. Mr. Ipecki is the independent perfumer behind the brand Pekji. When we met in NYC his passion for life was obvious, he has turned that into scent.

These three wanted to create an exhibit where all three of the disciplines would come together. Except a worldwide pandemic got in the way. Speaking with Mr. Ipecki he said, “it really was meant to be an exhibit, an immersive experience. But now, aptly, they are all disconnected from each other.” This has resulted in a group of three pieces from each of them. A book of photographs by Sig. Romero, three scents by Mr. Ipecki, and a container to hold the perfume in by Sig.ra Gotti.

Since March I have been enjoying all of this in my own version of an “immersive experience”. I downloaded all the photos from the accompanying Instagram page onto a thumb drive which I streamed to my large TV. I was given the music playlist that inspired each piece of the exhibit. That was coming from the speakers. I sprayed myself with 20 sprays of each perfume. At the same time I have some samples of the material Glebanite which Sig.ra Gotti gifted to me. I had those in my hand twirling and flipping the pieces I had. I spent one day like this with each of the scents. As I watched the images flash by, I looked for the ones which came close to what I was feeling. The Glebanite revealed itself to me as I was within each sphere of fragrance. The music took me to a place where all these things had the space to make their mark.

Photo: Franceso Romero

DIS- 1: Decay

Music: The Trail of Tears by William Basinski

As I sat watching pictures while wearing DIS- 1 I began to think about the process of decay. It begins at the moment of inception. The rates are different, but the black balloon begins to fill. At the same time we build the mound of our life. As it gets higher, we get closer to meeting that growing orb of decay. Glebanite if you look at it seems like solid stone. Then you pick it up. It is as if the stone has hollowed itself out. An unlikely source of entropy.

The keynote of the fragrance is a CO2 extract of costus. Costus has always suggested the funk of putridity. Mr. Ipecki uses that as he weaves through it the pleasantness of jasmine, angelica, and saffron. That’s the good. The weight of the blackness descending comes with castoreum and a plastic doll head version of vanilla. The costus is the encroaching end but the things worth living for are still present.

Photo: Francesco Romero

DIS-2: Concrete

Music: Infinite Abstract by Erik Truffaz

The greatest sense of separation comes through the concrete edifices we have built. DIS- 2 seeks to emulate that pushback the solid walls we have built have created. This is where the look of the Glebanite is paramount as it represents these monoliths. The feel of it, the lightness recalls the fragility of these barriers. If we only have the courage to bring them down, the taxi is waiting to take us away.

Mr. Ipecki uses an amount of galbanum meant to confront to make one want to separate. It gets sharper from there violet, synthetic musks all put up their own concrete walls which make me want to turn away. Mr. Ipecki chooses to provide no relief. There is not a safe ingredient to hang on to. This is meant to drive a wedge.

Photo: Francesco Romero

DIS- 3: Paradox

Music: Stave Peak by Loscil

If you are truly disconnected there is a point where you begin to crave what is missing. The togetherness of yourself and the world. You can’t live inside your own head forever. You have to eventually step out. when that happens the antithesis of it all comes to be as everything crashes together in a big, concentrated pile. Which just might send you back to solitude. Grabbing for the faux-solidity of the Glebanite to leverage yourself away. Yet for one glorious moment the crush of the world is pleasing, until it isn’t.

Which is exactly how DIS-3 plays out. It seems like the closest to a typical independent perfume. It begins with a swirl of smokiness through nagarmotha and the floral rosiness of geranium. Patchouli and vetiver also seem like part of the wider world of perfumery. You are back where it is pleasant, it is normal. Then camphor upends it all. It drives those pleasant ingredients into hiding for a moment as it is all you smell. Over time they come back but they seem warier as if a glance from the camphor will send them running.

When I spoke to Mr. Ipecki he asked me if I found a relationship to everything. I told him they might be disconnected but they felt like they were in the same gravitational field. As I spent my time in my immersive experience, I realized gravity wasn’t the physical theory that described this, chaos theory was. Particularly one of my favorite parts of it, strange attractors. That says despite the desire of objects to want to stay apart they can’t help but be attracted to each other if only for an instant. The larger the differences the more interesting the moment of interaction. Throughout my time I would find the music and the perfume or the Glebanite and the picture holding my attention. The other pieces had flown away. Only to return to create new attractions.

As we emerge from a true DIS- connected event a reminder that we all can find out own strange attractors seems appropriate.

Disclosure: The perfumes were provided by Mr. Ipecki. The photos are all courtesy of Mr. Romero. The Glebanite was a gift from Sig.ra Gotti. The music courtesy of Spotify.

Mark Behnke

Farewell to a Guerlie Girl

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Those of us who love perfume have a story of where it began. As I’ve related in other stories of my life much of my appreciation of fragrance began with my mother. She was the opposite of me in that she only wore two fragrances, Guerlain Mitsouko and Guerlain Shalimar in the Eau de Cologne concentration. Her vanity always had the round bull’s-eye bottles with the green or red dot at the center.

She was a working mother. I was the only one of my friends who had a mother who worked outside of the home. Wearing her perfume was part of her daily attire. I knew she was out of the shower and getting dressed because the scent of one of her perfumes would reach the breakfast table. I knew I had to finish soon because she was almost ready to leave. I would be rinsing out my cereal dish only to have her hug me in a Guerlain embrace. There was a security in it that a child could rely upon.

There were days a little would rub off on me. It always made me feel as if Mom was with me even though she had dropped me off. The scent of Mitsouko or Shalimar has been synonymous with her my entire life.

As she tuned into her son’s interest in perfume, she always reminded me that she only wore two things. While I often responded I wore two things in a day. We had a fabulous fragrant field trip to a Guerlain boutique near her home in Florida.

I had pulled some of the few strings I have to make an appointment for us. I really wanted her to experience the other versions of her favorites. They were ready for us. We had iced tea and every concentration of Shalimar and Mitsouko was sniffed. It is one of my favorite memories. Between the sales representative and I we spun all the history of these two pillars of my mother’s perfumed life.

After all of this what made me laugh with delight was she still preferred her Eau de Cologne versions best. My mother knew what she liked. As I drove her back to her house, she asked me whether I ever wore them. I smiled at her and said I couldn’t they were her scent. I told her Freud would have a field day with me if I did.

A few years ago I heard the phrase “Guerlie Girl” to represent a woman who wore Guerlain. It immediately stuck to my mother in my mind. Earlier this week, a few days short of her 99th birthday she passed away. There wasn’t much perfume wearing these last few years. I imagine that my Guerlie Girl is sitting on a scented cloud. Happy to have her perfumes back in her life.

Mark Behnke

In the Perfume Kitchen with Geza Schoen on Escentric Molecules M+ Collection

Now that we have 20 years into the new century there is the opportunity for some perspective when looking back. The independent and niche perfume areas really exploded into growth just after we crossed Y2K. The first five years of this new era were where the rules were being written. Brands weren’t trying to find their way to the mall. They were trying to find their way to the aficionado. The ones who wanted more than function from perfume. This was a good description of myself at this time. I was eagerly absorbing as much information as I could.

One part of that was trying to understand the ingredients which went into these perfumes. Like most my classroom was experiential. Through the forums I was collating my experience with others. One of the best ways I was able to learn came through one of those audacious gambles being taken then. Perfumer Geza Schoen would release Molecule 01 in 2005. It was just a single ingredient, the synthetic aromachemical Iso E Super. It was paired with another perfume where that synthetic ingredient was featured in a more traditional perfume called Escentric 01. This has been repeated with four other Molecules and led to four Escentrics to go with them.

Of all of them Molecule 01 has been the breakout star. It has been a perennial bestseller wherever it is sold. The reason is by itself it has a unique scent profile. It is one of those ingredients which creates a different scent profile and effect depending on its concentration. At 100% it is a wearable perfume all by itself.

Now sixteen years later Hr. Schoen is releasing a new set of perfumes called Escentric Molecules M+. The idea is to add another keynote to see how Iso E Super interacts with it. I had the pleasure a couple weeks ago of speaking with Hr. Schoen about these new fragrances.

Because he is also a trained organic chemist like me, I have always jokingly called him Herr Professor Doktor when he is teaching us through the Molecule and Escentric releases. About halfway through our conversation he said something which really encapsulated why Iso E Super has been so influential.

We were talking about the other Molecules and if any of those would be a candidate for this kind of effort. This was when he hit on something which resonated with me so strongly. He said, “It is the perfect basic kind of soup stock to cook the best soup with ever.”

Before we got to that he described how this all came about. It started with his partner Sophie asking him to make her a nice perfume from her favorite ingredient, iris. He thought it would go nice with Iso E Super and made that up for her to wear. She started getting asked what she was wearing. Even Hr. Schoen was able to know when she was nearby through the sillage she trailed behind her. It started with a lovely home meal made for a loved one by Chef Schoen.

He would come to realize there might be some other confections to be realized. He headed back into the kitchen to see what he would find. He told me he tried around a dozen different ingredients looking for the same synergy he found with iris. He mentioned that vanilla was “horrible”. That cake fell flat.

Over the time in the test kitchen he would find there were two ingredients which made the best recipes. They are mandarin and patchouli. The difference between all three of these perfumes Molecule 01 + Iris, or Mandarin, or Patchouli is they are a binary creation of Iso E Super and the plus. These aren’t as complex as Escentric 01. That seems like the entrée in retrospect. The three plus ones are more the courses leading up to it.

All three of these new fragrances are remarkably wearable. There is something compelling about the way Iso E Super acts within a perfume. I am going to review all three of Chef Schoen’s perfumes tomorrow. Each of them will illustrate why Molecule 01 produces “the best soup ever.”

Mark Behnke

Remembrance of Carlos J Powell Brooklyn Fragrance Lover

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I met Carlos J Powell the way most of us met him. It was when we got an invitation in 2011 to join a Facebook Group called Peace, Love, & Perfume. For almost ten years Carlos has been one of those central figures in the perfume community online.

Peace, Love, & Perfume was one of the earliest and would grow to one of the largest Facebook Groups dedicated to perfume. Carlos was the ringmaster. If I wanted to find out the pulse of the perfume lovers, this was the place I could do it. There are so many people I would encounter for the first time through a discussion there. These are relationships which endure because Carlos created the type of environment in which they could take root.

We would meet in real life a few months after I joined at an event in New York City. It was here where another piece of Carlos’ ability to capture a moment appeared. When I met him, he introduced me to three other guys with him. They all smiled and said they called themselves the “GoodSmellas”. I remember laughing in appreciation. A few months later they would be the subject of an article in “Elle” magazine on guys wearing perfume.

Where he really made his mark on the perfume fragosphere was as a video reviewer on his YouTube channel Brooklyn Fragrance Lover. He has grown that into one of the top tier perfume video sites on YouTube. One of the ways he accomplished his success was breaking out of his home studio.

When we had a conversation on one of my visits to NYC I told him that he had the ability to be the perfume chronicler of one of the perfume capitals of the world. I am sure it wasn’t just my advice because Carlos had an innate ability to find new ways to present his videos. One of them was his visits to different stores to film remote reviews. Another was for him to bring some of his co-workers into a video to rate different perfumes. These were always fascinating peeks into what the non-perfume public thought about fragrance.

Another development was his alliance with fellow video reviewer Steven Gavrielatos and his Redolessence channel. The two of them had an instantaneous chemistry which allowed for them to provide different perspectives on a single perfume. I have always enjoyed this in the other arts. Carlos and Steven would do it for perfume.

Through it all Carlos did this with a happy energy fueled by his love of all things which smelled good. I hope he is at Peace on a cloud of Love from those of us who miss him which were brought together through Perfume.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2021 Hopes and Wishes

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Ever since I started Colognoisseur I spend the last day of the year looking forward to the next year with some hopes and wishes.

This is what I’m talking about (DSH and Me pre-pandemic)

It is impossible not to start with the effect of the pandemic. The biggest thing I hope for next year is to see all my friends in fragrance in person…..and hug them! I am by nature a hugger, but I have also realized how much it is a part of my own well-being. That connection can’t be replaced by all the tech in the world. So beware once we can be together again there is a hug with your name on it.

Except I want to hatch perfume brands not chickens

Last year I wished for an American counterpart to the large European perfume expos. In a year where we had none, I’ve realized what important events they are for emerging brands and buyers. There should be a way to provide a similar experience in lieu of just the big trade shows. I am hoping there is some kind of incubator strategy which can help out that appears next year.

Except with perfume instead of guitars

Going into the New Year I am very excited about two powerhouse collaborations coming. The Masque Milano maestros Brun and Tedeschi are working with Mackenzie Reilly. While Victor Wong and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz are teaming up for Zoologist Snowy Owl. This is my version of an all-star perfume jam times two. You would think that is enough, but I have a couple of other dream teams I’d like to see. I would love to see Christophe Laudamiel take some of the incredible oils from one of the small-batch distillers and see what he would make of that. I would also love to see new Amouage creative director Renaud Salmon and perfumer Cecile Zarokian go for it with a gourmand that sets a new standard. Yes I am a greedy guy.

We need these to return next year

Finally because of the pandemic the Art & Olfaction Awards are taking this year off. Being a judge over the last few years has been one of my favorite parts of being involved in the fragrance community. I hope, and expect, they return for 2021. The awards provided a much-needed spotlight on the independent artistic perfume community. I hope that light will shine again next year.

As always, my final words of 2020 are thanks to all of you who choose to read my words about fragrance. It has never been more gratifying than in this crazy year. Happy New Year!

Mark Behnke