I was busy queuing up my Labor Day weekend binge viewing when a delivery truck arrived. Little did I know the next two weeks I would be binge reading what was in the box.
For perfume to be fully embraced as the art form I believe it to be we need to have the history of modern perfumery chronicled somewhere. I have always known it existed within the mind of Michael Edwards. Having had the fortune to hear him speak as well as spend time with him he has been the conduit to much of what I understand about the art of modern perfumery. I have spent hours listening to him and always left wanting more. He has now granted my wish by publishing “Perfume Legends II”.
If you are wondering where “Perfume Legends I” is you missed it, most likely. Mr Edwards published the first edition in 1996. It came out right as the independent niche perfume trends were arriving. Publishing “Perfume Legends II” twenty-three years later has allowed for the perspective of that growth of independent perfumery to also be included. All the content from the first edition has been further researched and elaborated upon. Along with the addition of the more recent legends.
“Perfume Legends II” covers the entire history of modern perfumery from the first modern perfume 1886’s “Fougere Royale” through to 2010’s “Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady”. Sandwiched in between are fifty more perfumes. Each chapter covers the time of when the perfume is released, the composition of the perfume, and the creation of the bottle as well as the reason it is a legend.
It is a remarkable collection of the history of perfume in one place. Each chapter feeds off what came before. It displays the evolution of perfume as a commercial product as well as a reflection of society. One of the most fascinating parts of the book was the history of the bottle. I have said many times I don’t care about the bottle just give me the perfume. After finishing the book I have a new appreciation for the container.
The most fascinating of these was the fraught creation of the bottle for YSL Opium in 1982. Bottle designer Pierre Dinand would be challenged to accommodate changes requested by Yves St. Laurent as they were nearing release. Once you read the story you will never look at a bottle of Opium the same way. It is true of most of the bottles written about. I still care more about the perfume but I have newfound respect for the bottle.
If there is a drawback it is that the volume is focused on French perfumes. It really isn’t one because Mr. Edwards is able to make his larger point within the smaller dataset. It also becomes less French and more global as the Legends reach the 1970’s and beyond because of the global reach of the brands.
I presume anyone reading this blog is a perfume lover. You need to put a copy of “Perfume Legends II” on your bookshelf. It will give you a deeper belief in the artistry behind modern perfumery.
Disclosure: this review is based on a copy provided by the publisher.
Day 3 began with a lecture by Michael Edwards of Fragrances of the World capturing the last ten years of the Artisanal Fragrance sector. I knew the market had really taken off over the last ten years. In 2006 there were 261 new artisanal releases. In 2016 there were 874 new releases. That’s not total that’s added to what was already there. Mr. Edwards challenged the brands who were in the room to look for opportunities to strike out in different places. He illustrated the point by showing that over a third of these new releases are florals. There is room for artistic expression in this sector and Mr. Edwards is one of the few who can show the hard numbers. It was a fantastic way to begin the day.
Michael Edwards Speaking at Esxence 2016
The next stop of Esxence 2016 was three years in the making. At Esxence 2013 perfumers Mark Buxton, Bertrand Duchaufour, and Geza Schoen announced they were teaming up for a project together. Finally Project Renegades has arrived where each of these gifted perfumers created a personal fragrance of their own. When I asked them what took so long the answer were those magnetic heads on the front of the bottles you see below. Each of them had their face scanned in 3-D to replicate their features as renegades. They were worth waiting for because I will never not see these three without a cowboy hat from now on. The perfumes are pretty great too.
Project Renegades Bottles
Next I visited with Sophie Gabriel and perfumer Alexandra Monet of The Different Company. The new release Adjutay comes from creative director Luc Gabriel’s life. On a trip he left some fresh tuberose in his leather suitcase. When he took it down again he was greeted with a mix of tuberose and leather. Mme Monet has recreated that visual spectacularly. The leather accord encases the rich tuberose. Easily one of my favorites.
Last year Maria Candida Gentile put a rose with elephants on Africa. For 2016 she takes inspiration from Marcel Duchamp for Rrose Selavy. This version of a rose by Sig.ra Gentile is nothing but rose as every part of the plant and no less than five different extracts of the flower itself are combined into a rose worthy of its inspiration.
Nishane Isatanbul had two new releases but the Shisha bar in a bottle called Fan Your Flames did just that for me. Tobacco, rum, and spices made me feel like I was relaxing in an easy chair, hookah next to me.
It was getting late and I had had a couple of my fellow bloggers tell me not to miss the new brand Homoelegans. I was greeted by the owners and creative directors Francesco Gini and Mauricio Piazzi. They have started their effort with two releases Tadzio and Quality of Flesh. The latter is inspired by Francis Bacon and how much of his artistic work was done in triptych. Of course perfume is also done in triptych with a top, heart, and base. Quality of Flesh represents that with three well-built accords focused around juniper berry, narcissus, and leather.
I was at the end of the day and as always it was difficult to say arrivaderci to my perfumed family. After making one final round of the exposition to get my final hugs I walked out into the evening sunlight. Arrivaderci Esxence, see you next year.
This was a very different Esxence for me than any previous one that I attended. One reason for that was I spent a large portion of my time in The Mall in Milano with a microphone in my hand and in front of a camera. It is a different perspective to be sure and I want to thank every one of my interview subjects for making it so easy for me. I hope those watching at home on the web viewer could feel my excitement.
One oddity of every Esxence is I have to travel across an entire ocean to meet someone who lives in the US. This year that dubious honor goes to Saskia Wilson-Brown of The Institute for Art & Olfaction (IAO). On the first day of the show she revealed the five finalists in each category for the 2015 Art & Olfaction Awards. The simple creation of the IAO and the awards which carry their name already let me know what a great person she was. The opportunity we had to chat over all three days confirmed that. After spending this time with her I am more sure than ever that the Art & Olfaction Awards are going to be one of the premiere awards in all of perfumery sooner than later.
If there was one person I met who radiated the passion of doing something you love it was Andrea Rubini. I started Day 3 standing in front of his stand and told him to tell me about his perfume. Instead of business plans or sales strategies he started with a smile and the phrase, “I was born into a family of perfumers….” From there he proudly displayed the perfume which carries his name and he was equally as excited when describing the other members of the team behind Rubini Fundamental. In a show of 150 different brands it might have been the tiniest which had the largest emotion.
Another feature of every Esxence for me is I spend time with perfumers with whom I have not had an opportunity to meet previously.
Luca Maffei of Atelier Fragranze Milano was tapped by brand Jul et Mad to do two of their new “Les White” collection. Sig. Maffei was so joyously animated when speaking with me about the creative process behind Nea and Garuda it was infectious. He has a joie de vivre which translates to his perfumes.
The other perfumer I spent some time with was Stephane Humbert Lucas. I have been a big supporter of his work in the past but we had never had the opportunity to really talk about perfume for any length of time before. As he showed me his new Mortal Skin and Harrod’s Limited Edition there was a noticeable smile on his face as he watched my reactions. I think perfumers know when they have made something special and he seemed happy as he watched me connect with his new creations.
Believe it or not I had never met Bertrand Duchaufour prior to Esxence. He showed me his new I miss Violet for The Different Company. That a perfumer as prolific as M. Duchaufour also still displays the delight of creation is testament to his longevity.
If there was a rock star of this year’s Esxence it had to be Michael Edwards of the Fragrances of the World reference book. He was seemingly everywhere on the floor as I worked my way around. His SRO talk on how oud came to be part of western perfumery was one of the highlights of that part of the Esxence program.
Oh yes there were perfumes to be sampled and tomorrow in Part 2 I’ll call out the top 10 from Esxence 2015.
As everyone is aware the use of oud in perfumery has exploded. Day 2 of Esxence 2015 was bookended by experiencing a new fragrance using real oud and Michael Edwards speaking on the history of oud coming to Western perfumery. In between there was a lot more to see and experience.
I started my day out with Jul et Mad who were premiering the White collection consisting of Nea, Garuda, and Min-Shar. I was fortunate to have perfumer Luca Maffei on hand to guide me through the collection as he was responsible for Nea and Garuda. It was the latter which really caught my attention. Sig. Maffei spoke of his use of Cambodian oud in the heart of Garuda. What was very interesting was his use of rum to attenuate the strong medicinal qualities that particular oud has. The brief was to make Garuda glow like a room lined with gold in the sunlight. Sig. Maffei did that and then some.
The breakout brand of last year’s Esxence was Le Galion and the revival of perfumer Paul Vacher’s line. I was very interested to see where Le Galion would set sail for this year. Owner Nicolas Chabot presented six new perfumes to me. Of those six, three are brand new compositions. Perfumer Vanina Murraciole was responsible for the two new ones in the main collection, Cuir and Aesthete. Aesthete is the one that I like most. Both Cuir and Aesthete are leather fragrances but where Cuir feels like a throwback to the leather perfumes of the past, Aesthete feels contemporary. It is that modernity that draws me to it. Sig.ra Murraciole has made a pair of fabulous new addition that show Le Galion is well on their way to continuing M. Vacher’s legacy.
Photo by Miguel Sandinha
If there was one note I was both anticipating and dreading trying this year it was the wasabi note promised in the new Olfactive Studio Panorama. As always it is based on a photograph. This time it is of the Sheats Goldstein house in Los Angeles by photographer Miguel Sandinha. As you can see in the picture above there are two modern aspects the skyline of LA off in the distance and the glass corner of the house on the right side. What you should notice if you want to get a sense of Panorama is that well over half of the picture is green. Panorama is a fragrance of unusual green facets. Perfumer Clement Gavarry and Creative Director/Owner Celine Verleure combined to make something very green and very current. What about that wasabi note? It is amazingly good in this perfume.
My favorite new discovery of Day 2 was X-Ray Profumo Amnesia. Inspired by the nightclub in Ibiza and not the mental affliction. Perfumer Ralf Schwieger has made a vibrant perfume which captures the beat of an oceanside club pulsing into the dawn from the night before. As with the wasabi in Panorama the keynote in Amnesia is another strange choice which works. Hr. Schwieger has developed a seaweed and sea salt accord. By itself it would probably smell like low tide and unpleasant. Forming the nucleus of Amnesia it allows all the other surrounding fresh notes to dance the night away on the beach with abandon.
Final stop on Day 2 was Michaels Edwards’ talk on oud and how it came to the West. Raise your hand if you thought YSL M7 was the first Western oud fragrance. Mr. Edwards showed us it was Balenciaga pour Homme which pre-dated M7. In a talk where he showed us a bottle of real oud extract worth $50,000 to start; we were given strip after strip to see how oud has been developed by the very best perfumers we have over the last few years. If there was ever a need to be shown that oud remains relevant in Western perfumery Mr. Edwards provided it.
That’s the end of Day 2. My final day is straight ahead and I’ll be dashing through the show like a madman.