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

New Perfume Review La Curie Geist- Sharp Objects

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One of the things about the independent perfumers is they can follow their vision. They can interpret a favorite theme in multiple ways. As an observer I can sometimes see a theme that isn’t actually there. I can impose my perspective using scant clues. Which is what I have done with perfumer Lesli Wood.

Almost five years ago I was introduced to her through the perfume La Curie Incendo. It was a mystical inverted pyramid style of perfume. I took a line from the card which accompanied the sample which had “Fire walk with me” on it. That comes from the television series Twin Peaks. Readers of my Sunday column know how much I like it. As I wrote about that I assumed Ms. Wood shared my enjoyment of the show. At the end of the review I said I was going to be wearing it on the first night Twin Peaks returned a few months later. I did which only reinforced my thinking.

Lesli Wood

Just after the New Year Ms. Wood offered me an opportunity to catch up with her perfumery over the last five years. She sent me a sample set of six new perfumes. I was once again taken back to the thought there is a lot of Twin Peaks in the way she makes perfume. She adores the smoke which hangs in the trees of the Pacific Northwest which shows up consistently. She also can go in a fascinating odd tangent as she does with Odyssey. This is the smell of molded vinyl. She is not interested in conforming to they typical norms. The one from this set of six which really connected with me is La Curie Geist.

Ms. Wood’s use of smoky materials is remarkable. Many perfumers get the balance all wrong. In everything I’ve tried from her she knows how to achieve a balance by using just the right quantities. In Geist, the source of the smoke comes from a leather accord. What surrounds it is a host of sharply scented interrogators.

Before the leather arrives, Geist begins with black hemlock and pine. The terpenes of the pine cut across the acerbic vegetal scent of the hemlock. They act as crossed sabers atop a field of newly tanned leather. The pungency of an ink accord inscribes that milieu. She is using an accord which reminds me strongly of those old cartridge fountain pens I had as a child. The nib bites into the leather as it writes. The base is a fantastic grounding accord of geosmin reviving the scent of moist soil. As if this was a found object deep in the mysterious woods.

Geist has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are looking for a new perfume experience and smokiness doesn’t scare you off La Curie is a brand you should consider. I am going to make much more of an effort to stay up to date with her work from now on. It takes a sharp mind to make a perfume consisting of sharp objects.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by La Curie.

Mark Behnke