Colognoisseur Best of 2018: Part 3- The Top 25 New Perfumes of the Year

This year I tried 701 new perfumes. To keep that in perspective, it is about 30% of all new perfume released in 2018. The Top 25 below represents the best 3.6% of what I encountered this year

The Top 5 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)

5. Cartier Carat– The best mainstream release of 2018 it is a celebration of the skill of Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent. It is simply described as a transparent formula. What Mme Laurent put in the bottle was a faceted floral jewel which changed as you looked at each facet. A kaleidoscopic perfume that helped me embrace the potential of the transparent trend which is here to stay in perfume.

4. Providence Perfume Co. Vientiane– Independent perfumer Charna Ethier fused a jasmine rice tincture to a tower of sandalwood. It resulted in a perfume which gave me new insight into one of the most venerable notes in perfumery. It also is a testament to Ms. Ethier’s skill to shine a light into those spaces.

3. April Aromatics Irisistible– This is the culmination of all of the efforts perfumer Tanja Bochnig has produced over the years for her April Aromatics brand. Each release over the last couple of years has been better than the last. Irisistible will be a perfume Fr. Bochnig will find difficult to top. A floral rainbow with a rooty iris as the most brilliant band of color.

2. Neela Vermeire Creations NiralNeela Vermeire has successfully found the perfume place where her Indian and French sensibilities overlap. It has produced one of the best independent perfume collections on the market. Mme Vermeire has worked exclusively with perfumer Bertrnad Duchaufour. For Niral they undertook the concept of capturing Tussar silk as a perfume. It is something I think could only have been made by a creative director and perfumer who have been working together for years. Niral flows in shimmering silken waves of iris that slither through the air opulently.

1. Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio GuayabosThere is a much longer explanation in Part 2 of the Best of 2018 posts. For this list I’ll keep it short; the best Arquiste along with the best perfume by Rodrigo Flores-Roux.

The Rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order

4160 Tuesdays Freeway– Sarah McCartney had an incredibly creative 2018. Her evocation of LA was the best one.

A Lab on Fire And The World Is Yours– This combination of neroli and cumin captures the morning after when the rising sun signals the end of the party.

Aftelier AlchemyMandy Aftel looked back to her beginning which allowed Alchemy to confirm her vision has never strayed.

aromaM Geisha Botan– Maria McElroy composed a spring floral featuring peony; I wish more did it like this.

Avon Velvet– Best Bang for the Buck perfume on the list. Perfumer Gabriela Chelariu proves it’s the perfumer and not the ingredients in a lush fig-rose-patchouli perfume that smells like it belongs on the top shelf.

Blackbird Y06-S– Nicole Miller produced an envelope-pushing skanky jasmine and banana fragrance which I can’t forget.

Commodity Nectar– This brand has become the most reliable economical brand by allowing perfumers the freedom to create as they wish. Mathieu Nardin used that to create a summery neroli

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for American Perfumer Colorado Dave Kern commissioned two limited editions for his new American Perfumer store. This one by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz captures the slope of the Rockies right outside Ms. Hurwitz’s door.

DSH Perfumes Summer Cologne– Ms. Hurwitz was also equally creative for her own line as this tomato leaf twist on the classic eau de cologne was the best version of this form in 2018.

Frassai A Fuego Lento– This brand creatively directed by Natalia Outeda debuted in 2018. A Fuego Lento by Rodrigo Flores-Roux is a jasmine-leather stunner.

Hermes Hermessence Cardamusc– In-house perfumer Christine Nagel makes the Hermessence collection her own with an oil formulation of cardamom, in overdose, and musks.

Hiram Green HydeHiram Green puts together a birch tar all-natural leather perfume that grabs you and does not let go.

Jo Malone Jasmine Sambac & Marigold– Creative director Celine Roux has overseen a creative rebirth at Jo Malone. Jasmine Sambac & Marigold, by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui, is the best example of that in 2018.

Jovoy Remember Me– If you need evidence that gourmand perfumes can be amazing this is it. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian melds delicate florals over strong black tea.

L’Iris de Fath– Creative director Rania Naim believed she could re-formulate Iris Gris. The proof of that belief is in the bottle.

Maison Rebatchi Joyeux OsmantheMohamed Rebatchi is the creative director of a new brand making a splash. Working with perfumer Maurice Roucel osmanthus stands up to tuberose; gorgeously.

Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower The second limited edition from Dave Kern and the American Perfumer store. Maria McElroy weaves a story of youth and adulthood on the edge of the desert. All using rare Arabian oils.

Pekji Zeybek– The best new brand of 2018 goes to Pekji from Omer Ipecki. A strong debut collection of five perfumes is headed by this abstract perfume vision of the horse barn.

strangeloveNYC lostinflowers– Creative director Elizabeth Gaynes came home from a trip to India with a champaca extract called “joy oil”. When she asked perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to use it in a perfume it gave me a lot of joy.

Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex– There is a part of me that thinks creative director Victor Wong and perfumer Antonio Gardoni came up with the idea of a prehistoric jungle on fire as a joke. The perfume is no joke. It is a completely original perfume.

An extra 3.5%; or the 23 perfumes which just missed being on the list above

A Lab on Fire Hallucinogenic Pearl– the De Laire bases return in a violet and iris perfume.

Acqua di Parma Chinotto di Liguria– Another classic Mediterranean style cologne

Aether Arts Perfume The AI Series– A set of fiercely intelligent perfumes which invaded my thoughts

Blocki Sanrovia– Sandalwood from a heritage brand with an eye on the future.

Britney Spears Prerogative– Best celebrity perfume of 2018

Bruno Fazzolari Fontevraud– A deconstructed chypre that actually was

Chanel 1957– A gleaming glass and metal tower of white musks

Diptyque Tempo– Thoroughly modern patchouli

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Music For A While– Who knew I wanted lavender to go with pineapple.

Fath’s Essentials Red Shoes– One of perfumer Cecile Zarokian’s best.

Gucci Bloom Nettare di Fiori– Best flanker of 2018

Heeley Blanc Poudre– The smell of laundered warm cotton

Imaginary Authors Whispered Myths– Josh Meyer tries something different.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Mont de Narcisse– A leather, narcissus, and immortelle beauty.

Louis Vuitton Nouveau Monde– The leather I wanted from LV.

Masque Milano (homage to) Hemingway– A full-spectrum vetiver

McQueen Collection Sacred Osmanthus– Transparent osmanthus soliflore

Terre d’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver– Christine Nagel brings the vetiver forward

Molton Brown Muddled Plum– Boozy fruity gourmand

Nest Cocoa Woods– A perfume that lives up to both nouns in its name.

Providence Perfume Co. Lemon Liada– A citrus perfume where lemon is front and center with no lemon being used.

Tom Ford Private Blend Lost Cherry– First Private Blend which felt like the early days of the brand.

Zoologist Hyrax– Funkiest, in a good way, perfume of 2018.

That’s it for 2018.

Part 1 Overview of 2018

Part 2 Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower- The Soul of Memory

In a shop in Louisville, Kentucky is the first store dedicated to the art and creativity of the American independent perfumer. It is called, appropriately, American Perfumer. Owner Dave Kern has curated a collection of the best this sector has to offer. He believes, as I do, that a consumer who is exposed to what is offered will see the difference.

American Perfumer in Louisville, Kentucky

One of those differences is these perfumers create from a sincere place within. This is not focus group driven fragrance. This is emotionally creative artistic perfume. It means each perfumer brings something unique to their brand. One of the ways Mr. Kern wanted to stand out was to offer exclusive limited editions by the perfumers of the brands which were on his shelves. The first one was reviewed yesterday, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for American Perfumer Colorado. For the second limited edition Mr. Kern asked Maria McElroy, the perfumer behind aroma M and House of Cherry Bomb. Mr. Kern chose these two perfumers because, “I knew they’d make beautiful, interesting work and get it done on time. That said, in every way, they exceeded my expectations.”

Mr. Kern kickstarted the creative process by asking Ms. McElroy “if she had any scent-memories from growing up in Utah”. A simple brief which doesn’t match the complex perfume which has sprung from it. In the notes which Ms. McElroy included with my sample she remembered car trips across the Mojave Desert while she was “reciting Jack Kerouac lines”. This would be crossed with a more recent trip to Marrakech where the Brooklynite Ms. McElroy is now reconnected with the child in the backseat as she gazed out upon the Sahara Desert nearly half a world away. That is the inspiration for Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower.

Maria McElroy

While in Marrakech she would source small amounts of different oils which is what she uses in Desert Flower. This creates an incredibly unique fragrance. It is part of what American independent perfumery stands for. Artists who will create something exquisite in a small batch which might never be replicated.

For those who have read my reviews of Ms. McElroy’s aroma M perfumes she has a way of connecting with my storytelling urge to create a fiction around her perfumes. Something like Desert Flower was always going to cause that urge to come to the foreground again. In this case I imagine a hiker reaching Monument Valley after having crossed Utah from Colorado.

The hiker was thinking of the Navajo guide who showed him to the campsite for the night. As he explained the ground rules for camping, he made sure he had my attention when he said, “This is the place where Yikaisdaha (The Milky Way) aligns with the Earth. It is where the Heavens and Earth meet.” The hiker had just finished stowing his cooking materials after dinner. He gazed out across the desert floor towards the rock formations known as The Mittens. The sun crossed the floor lighting up the red rocks with the final rays of the day. The hiker noticed there were some desert flowers blooming in the twilight their scent released as the sun disappeared. It always impressed the hiker how much the few flowers which thrived in the desert could fill the air with their perfume. The strong woods of the desert provided a sonorous bass line. As the evening progressed and the hiker watched the span of Yikaisdaha slowly lower itself towards the floor of the desert a deep inky black scent overtook the night. That was the last thought of the hiker until the sun woke him the next morning. The only surety he had it was real was the lone desert flower greeting the day. He wondered what Arizona would smell like.

Ms. McElroy creates a perfume which captures the moment when night first falls in the desert and cereus flowers, among many others, turn the world into a floral wonderland. The use of authentic Arabian oils adds unbelievable nuance throughout.

Desert Flower opens with a dense mixture of floral ingredients. This is a gigantic floral accord which could have gotten out of control. Ms. McElroy keeps that from happening by using honey to form a soft sticky embrace of the florals. This by itself would be amazing but there is one last accord to be added; an oud-tinted chypre. Ms. McElroy excels at using precious materials. This chypre accord wherein she inserts genuine oud oil is remarkable. It adds an exotic twist to an already excellent chypre accord. The best chypres feel like they are inky scents; the inclusion of the oud alters it in a way I wanted more of.

Desert Flower has 12-14 hour longevity and it is a pure parfum concentration which means minimal sillage.

If you are a lover of full-bodied floral perfumes Desert Flower is a rare jewel made up of rare ingredients. It is something which you will regret missing if this sounds like your kind of perfume. It is my kind of perfume where Ms. McElroy takes the soul of memory transforming it into perfumed art.

I’ll finish with a quote from “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, “As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point at me and say, “Pass here you’re on the road to heaven.”

Mr. Kern, in overseeing his first two limited editions for American Perfumer, has taken us from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Colorado to Maria McElroy’s Utah-inspired Desert Flower. Thus laying down the first two miles on “the road to heaven” with the heart and soul of American perfumery.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Maria McElroy.

Mark Behnke