We live in a society which always seem to want to move at the speed of a bullet train. Consumers want everything fast and lots of it. Fragrance is as susceptible to these forces as any. The pace of releases or the double-digit collections is meant to sate the appetites of perfume lovers. As someone who smells his fair share during a year, I think the rush to market sometimes leave good ideas unfulfilled. When I try something that is almost there, I wonder what a little extra time might have wrought. It is a fanciful thought most brands just want to churn their releases. Getting it right is not part of the equation. There are outliers, Naomi Goodsir Corpus Equus is one of them.
There are no more exacting creative directors than Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutadier. From the moment I met them in 2012 I have been a persistent correspondent asking when the next new thing is coming. They are polite in replying with a version of this, “When we think it is right?” This has been a process which has taken years. It has led to a small collection which exhibits the success of this way of making perfume.
Corpus Equus took eight years to finally get it right. Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutadier know what they are looking for. In this case they worked through every iteration with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. In the press materials there is talk about it being the spirit of an Arabian horse. What I found was a smoky leathery amber which reminds me of a leather sofa in front of a fireplace more than a horse.
This begins with that scent of woodsmoke from a chimney. Those who remember one of Ms. Goodsir’s first releases Bois D’Ascese will likely see a kinship. This is a much better-behaved smokiness. Which is good because a compelling incense pairs with it in the early going. I imagined an incense burner where a sliver of wood and a joss stick smoldered next to each other. Releasing spirals of smoke which tangle themselves together.
The leather accord comes next. This is a modernized Cuir de Russie version. A lot of birch tar is used. It simultaneously picks up on the smoke in the top accord while beginning the construction of the leather one. There is a pungent cigarette ash rubbed into the leather. Reminded me of the way my leather jacket smelled after a night of clubbing. The final piece is an animalic musk which pulls it all together into a leather accord with vitality. If there is a horse to be found here this is where it might be, I guess. It all folds into a strong amber in the base as the smoke and leather envelop it.
Corpus Equus has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
There is a lot of pleasure in finding some aspects of the first and this sixth one nine years apart. It confirms that the concept of go slow, get it right works if you let it.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
In the morning I take the dogs out the back gate onto a path through a forest of birch trees. One of the ways I mark the transition from summer to fall is the smell of woodsmoke on that walk. As the mornings gain a little chill there are a set of houses in the distance which fire up their wood stoves. The sunlight slices through the haze. I have a perfume which captures this perfectly; Naomi Goodsir Parfums Bois d’Ascese.
Bois d’Ascese was one of the first two releases by Australian hatmaker Naomi Goodsir in 2012. Along with co-creative director Renaud Coutaudier they collaborated with perfumer Julien Rasquinet. Ever since then the brand has released three more fragrances. Every one of them have been among the best perfumes the year they were released. Because they are a brand which releases perfume infrequently it is easy for them to fall off the radar. To put them on your radar I will let Bois d’Ascese introduce you to it, as it did me.
When talking to Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier they have an uncompromising vision which they will take their time to realize. M. Rasquinet was early in his career and was just beginning to show his skills off. Bois d’Ascese exemplifies this because they use one of the most common ingredients, cade oil, as the smoky component. I’ve smelled way too many smoky perfumes where the cade oil turns into choking billowing clouds of smoke. This creative team takes that same ingredient to a lighter place where it is that morning woodsmoke haze I recognize.
The way the cade oil is given that effect is through a precise amount of incense. It gives a foundation for the cade oil to not have to carry all the weight of a woodsmoke accord. That keeps it with a consistently strong but not overpowering presence. The woods come into focus through oakmoss, tobacco, and labdanum. This is the smell of birch trees on an autumn morning.
Bois d’Ascese has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bois d’Ascese is one of my favorite smoky perfumes I own. It has engaged me ever since I tried it eight years ago. If you like smoky perfumes it should be on your radar. Naomi Goodsir Parfums should be there because this is the epitome of what independent perfumery can be.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
There are moments when I just feel that a creative project is going to be magnificent. I’ve recently received the proof that one of those has come to fruition. When I first met the creative team behind the Naomi Goodsir fragrance brand, Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier, I felt like they were artists who had a real vision. Not only the vision but the determination with which to keep working at something until that vision was achieved. The other thing happened at that first meeting was they were telling me what they were working on. From the moment, I heard the name and the perfumer I knew this was something I could not wait for, but I would wait for over three years. The name was Nuit de Bakelite and the perfumer was Isabelle Doyen.
Just the name was going to draw me in because we had a whole stack of old Bakelite cooking dishes. The smell of those dishes all stacked up was fascinating to me in the way other industrial smells were. Bakelite was also used as costume jewelry from the Art Deco period until the mid 1970’s. It was in those later years that a group of free spirited women I was spending time with wore each wore a set of matching Bakelite bracelets which I associated with a certain type of experimental thinking. The sound of the bracelets coming together fell in between plastic and metallic. It was another unusual sound in which I found beauty.
Mme Doyen has been a pillar of the artistic niche perfumery sector since its beginning. She has been known mostly for her work with one brand, Annick Goutal. It is a body of work which shows what niche perfume can be. What has always set Mme Doyen apart for me is the more artistic experimental work she has done. Nowhere was that more evident in the three vetiver variations she produced for The Turtle Project. Those three perfumes are some of my favorite for the complete creative freedom they showed.
I also must mention Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier. There are only a few creative teams in the niche perfume world who do not bow to the pressure of making perfume on a timetable. In many discussions with them they stress to me that they won’t release a perfume until they feel it is what they both want it to be. As a result, the entire Naomi Goodsir collection stands out for this dedication. Heaven knows I bugged them enough times about when Nuit de Bakelite was going to be released.
When I finally received my sample in the mail I was a bit afraid to tear in to the package and try it. There was so much that could be wrong. It sat on my desk for a full day before I finally did. What greeted me was a green tuberose. Once I sprayed it on I understood what Mme Doyen when she said, “Nuit de Bakélite evokes to me, a tuberose sap, peeled tuberose, tuberose in a cage made of green and leather, a focus on the small peduncle that connects the flower to the stem, the sound of plastic when several stalks of tuberose tangle, the wild majesty of the Persian tuberose.” I have always found there to be a strong plastic undercurrent beneath tuberose. That is captured here, it is the Bakelite part of Nuit de Bakelite. The tuberose here is not the flower, per se, it is the stem and sap primarily. You can’t really keep a note like tuberose down but you can find a way to display it differently which is what the creative team has done here.
Nuit de Bakelite opens with a strong green pairing of angelica and galbanum. It leads to an accord which evokes the green camphoraceous nature of tuberose along with the Bakelite plastic note. Bakelite is made from a reaction including aldehydes. There is an almost faux-aldehydic lift happening in this transition from the sharp green of the top to the more floral heart. Here Mme Doyen chooses a source of tuberose essentially scrubbed clean of the indoles. That has the effect of enhancing the buttery aspects of tuberose a skillful use of orris provides depth in place of the indoles. Over time a base of leather and tobacco provide the final brushstrokes. Most often these can be afterthoughts, not here. The tobacco softens the floral accord while doubling down on the natural narcotic quality of tuberose. The leather is a playful reminder of the vintage tuberoses which finished with a swaggering version. This is a hipster version hanging on the sidelines only interacting intermittently; when it seems right.
Nuit de Tuberose has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Although I’ve just spent a lot of words writing about Nuit de Bakelite I could go on and on. This is a concept which has been brilliantly realized using a focal point in a modern retelling of a vintage era. There are a few brands I point to when I want to exemplify all that artistic perfume can be; Naomi Goodsir continues to hold that place as Nuit de Bakelite is artistry rewarded.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Naomi Goodsir.
Back in 2011 there were a number of visual artists taking a shot at expanding into fragrance. I can remember the great majority of these efforts to have a lot of vision and no juice. The visual inspiration piece was usually paired up with a ham-handed attempt at smelling different. They often eschewed using perfumers to their detriment. I had gotten to the point that when they started talking about being multi-disciplinary I wanted to tell them to stick to the single discipline they do well, which wasn’t perfume.
That was my frame of mind when I received the initial collection of Icelandic artist Andrea Maack. Ms. Maack had a press release full of multi-disciplinary verbiage. I was expecting to be bored. Instead her initial three fragrances showed a remarkable degree of polish. The reason was she chose to work with Renaud Coutaudier as her co-creative director and they used perfumer Julien Rasquinet very early in his career. Of the initial three I liked Craft and Sharp but Smart is the one which I purchased a bottle of.
Ms. Maack’s visual art at this time was fluid geometrics. It is a style which appealed to me. This aesthetic managed to make it into her initial three perfumes as all of them had bold lines which intersected in unusual ways. The creative team and M. Rasquinet were always looking to establish contrasts within intersections. Smart is a good example of this.
Smart opens with the metallic tang of violet leaves. This is a top note which imparts a uniquely contemporary vibe almost turning it industrial. Before it can go too far in that direction a sweetly floral vector overlays itself consisting of jasmine and vanilla. The vanilla is a greener version as if of the orchid carrying more green facets along with the sweet. The jasmine picks that up and as it coats the metallic violet leaves it forms an appealing duet. M. Rasquinet then lays down a strong through line of sandalwood. The sandalwood is its very typical creamy woody version. As the sandalwood settles in a final animalic arc arrives with a leather accord and musk. M. Rasquinet balances these four strong lines skillfully so at their intersection there is much to enjoy.
Smart has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ms. Maack would end up adding four more to the original three. Of those Coal and Coven were my favorites. This is a line worth checking out not only for the fragrances but also as a place where rising star perfumer M. Rasquinet was developing his skills. There is much to admire of his work for the brand. If you’re looking for something multi-disciplinary Andrea Maack Smart is one of the few which promise that, which also delivers.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
In a year when I smelled almost 700 new perfumes it is easy to focus on some of the problems which affect the perfume industry. What is nice about this time of year is it allows me to focus on what is outstanding within perfumery. These next four winners are what keep me coming back for more.
Perfume of the Year: Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre– There is one thing about finding a great perfume for the first time at one of the big expos; it stands out head and shoulders above all that surround it. When I arrived at this fall’s Pitti Fragranze in Florence my very first stop was to see Australian born milliner Naomi Goodsir and her partner in perfume Renaud Coutaudier. I look forward to connecting with this brand because these two have an uncompromising attention to detail in each of their releases. In three years they have only released four perfumes. Every single one of them is among the best for their particular year. I knew there was going to be a transcendent entry sooner than later. On that September day in Florence Iris Cendre turned out to be that fragrance.
For Iris Cendre Mme Goodsir and M. Coutaudier returned to the perfumer they worked with on their first two releases, Julien Rasquinet. Together they created a shimmering green iris which had a sly callback to their earlier collaboration Bois D’Ascese in the base. Iris Cendre is a success on every level I can name. Choosing a Perfume of the Year has never been easier.
Perfumer of the Year: Christophe Laudamiel– This category was the toughest it has ever been for me. There was so much laudable work by many perfumers this year I ended up looking for intangibles to elevate my eventual choice, Christophe Laudamiel. The perfume reasons were the three 2015 releases he composed; Raymond Matts Pashay, Raymond Matts Tulile, and Strangelove NYC meltmyheart. I mentioned in my overview yesterday that there were more unabashedly synthetic perfumes released this year. In the past I have used M. Laudamiel’s work for brands like Humiecki & Graef or Nest as what can be accomplished with a primarily synthetic palette. The three perfumes he worked on for 2015 are even better examples especially the Raymond Matts Pashay. Strangelove NYC meltmyheart shows how he can take a perfectly executed central accord of chocolate, oud, and orris accompanied by a set of synthetics which impart a transparency to create something supernatural.
The intangible that lifted him over the others listed below is his tireless work for The Academy of Perfumery & Aromatics. In that capacity he developed a fantastic children’s introductory set to fragrance. By using different ingredients and tying them to their geographic location and their smells it is an ingenious way of introducing the concept of scent, in an educational way, to the next generation.
A great year of perfume combined with an important ambassadorial role makes Christophe Laudamiel my Perfumer of the Year.
Runner-Ups: Mandy Aftel, Cristiano Canali, Jean-Claude Ellena, Bruno Fazzolari, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Pierre Negrin, and Geza Schoen.
Creative Director of the Year: Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio– Of the many things I say over and over it is how disappointed I am when a brand plays it safe. While I press for a brand to take risks their bottom line is at stake to please my desire. Any Creative Director who takes too many risks will probably not succeed. My choice for Creative Director of the Year is Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio who fearlessly released two very different perfumes in 2015, Panorama and Selfie.
Mme Verleure has always been interested in pushing the envelope as a Creative Director and that started with her work on the Kenzo Jungle collection from 1996-1998 which were not hewing to current trends at that time. When she started Olfactive Studio in 2011 she still made memorable riffs on recognizable templates but the early releases were about building an audience. In 2015 she challenged that audience with the fierce greenness of Panorama including a wasabi accord. Followed up by Selfie which took a fractured top accord of contrasting notes and coalesced it around a maple syrup heart. It is a fascinating bit of olfactory architecture I enjoy every time I wear it. These are perfumes which invite scrutiny and that is something I can only say about the very best releases in a year.
For her sense of adventure, I name Celine Verleure my Creative Director of the Year.
Runner-Ups: Karl Bradl (Aedes de Venustas and Nomenclature), Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel (Atelier Cologne), Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard (Jul et Mad), Christopher Chong (Amouage), and Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena (Eau D’Italie, ALTAIA).
Brand of the Year: Atelier Cologne– Atelier Cologne has been on an ever expanding trajectory since their founding in 2010. This year represented their most ambitious to date as they released eight new fragrances and an extrait version of one of the bestsellers. Owners and Creative Directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel have always impressed me with their clear vision for their brand. By releasing a four fragrance Collection Azur at the beginning of the year meant to be an introduction to the world of Cologne Absolue which was released to various Sephora for that reason. It was followed by four releases spread out through the year that continued the evolution of this style of perfume. Saphir Oud, Pomelo Paradis, Jasmine Angelique, and Musc Imperial displayed the versatility that can be elicited from this concept.
Atelier Cologne is also the genial ambassador to niche for many who don’t live in large cities. I have lost count how many times I have told those who live in these areas to go to their local Sephora and try the Atelier Cologne that are there. I almost invariably get a return e-mail relating to me how they bought one after smelling the difference. I always talk about wanting niche brands to reach out to consumers beyond the big cities. Atelier Cologne has done this with great success.
For those reasons Atelier Cologne is my Brand of the Year.
Runner-Ups: Aftelier Perfumes, DSH Perfumes, Hermes, Jo Malone, and Olfactive Studio.
Part 1 was my broad overview of the year.
Part 3 tomorrow I will reveal my top 25 new perfumes of 2015.
I think if you are a writer, or reader, that means you have an inherent love of words. One of my favorite words is “viridescent”. It is an adjective which means greenish or becoming green. I have known that at some point in time there would be a perfume for which this adjective would be appropriate. That fragrance has arrived, Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre.
Ever since meeting Naomi Goodsir at Esxence in 2012 she has become one of my favorite people in all of perfumery. She and partner Renaud Coutaudier have fashioned what I consider one of the best examples on what it takes to succeed as a small niche brand today. In 2012 they began with two releases Cuir Velours and Bois D’Ascese. Many brands would have followed those up rapidly. It took almost a year and a half for the third release Or du Serail. Nearly another 18 months on and the fourth release, Iris Cendre, was premiered at Pitti Fragranze 2015. From many conversations with Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier I know there is nothing which trumps the creative process. They will not add a new release until it is what they think it should be. There is a project currently in the pipeline that I am sure she is tired of me asking about. Her response every time is there is still something left to do to make it what she and M. Coutaudier want it to be. Unlike many of their contemporaries at Pitti Fragranze who release multiple fragrances at a time until the best of their brand is buried underneath an avalanche of mediocrity; Ms. Goodsir has taken the opposite approach. This fastidious attention to detail has produced the best perfume in a line which I already prize highly in Iris Cendre.
Renaud Coutaudier (Photo: Claudio Bonoldi)
For Iris Cendre Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier return to working with perfumer Julien Rasquinet with whom they did the first two releases. It is my speculation that the previous work helped Iris Cendre begin at an advanced state of understanding between the creative team. What has been produced is a unique iris perfume made viridescent.
M. Rasquinet opens with a sweet flourish of tangerine and bergamot bolstered with a grace note of spices. Consider it a flamboyant bow as the curtain raises on the star of the show an extremely decadent orris butter. When orris is used in this form it very often opens very rich, eventually evolving into something very powdery. M. Rasquinet uses a clever assortment of notes to prevent that from happening. Instead of turning into something found on the cosmetics counter it is more like something found beneath the earth as the iris stays much closer to its rooty origination as the rhizome from which orris butter is derived. Early on M. Rasquinet matches the iris with violet adding in the more floral quality of a different purple flower. At this point in any other perfume a descent into powder would be inevitable. Here a clean incense with a slightly metallic character cuts that off at the pass. It picks up the rooty qualities and even makes the violet more astringent. In the base M. Raquinet uses a variation on the cistus, tobacco, and amber construct he used previously in Bois D’Ascese. In that fragrance it was what lurked under the smoke. Here it provides a bit of translucent haze for the final phases.
Iris Cendre has 12-14 hour longevity with average sillage.
This was the very first scent I smelled at this year’s Pitti Fragranze. This was the answer I gave first when anyone asked me what was worth trying. It was the most buzzed about perfume at the fair, rightfully so. The pace and method at which these fragrances have been produced has been vindicated at every turn. Iris Cendre is one of the very best new perfumes of 2015 because of that dedication. Just as at the fair I am not sure I will try anything better this year.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Naomi Goodsir Parfums at Pitti Fragranze 2015.
When we are children we generally love to dig in the earth. A good day of play was accompanied by muddy appendages. When I also search back through my olfactory scrapbook it is that smell of dirt which has to be pretty close to my first scent memory. As we grow up getting down in the dirt is accompanied by gardening tools but the same primal smell remains. I am surprised that more perfumers don’t make the effort to capture this in a fragrance. The recent release from Andrea Maack, Coven is all centered on rooting around in the ground to see what can be found.
Andrea Maack is a graphic artist from Reykjavik, Iceland and Coven is her seventh release. There has been a steady progression from her first three releases and with 2012’s Coal this line really began to establish its own identity. The creative direction is a co-production between Ms. Maack and Renaud Coutaudier. I was unable to find out the perfumer responsible for Coven but the direction given by Ms. Maack and M. Coutaudier must have been very specific because what has made it into the bottle is the smell of soil.
Coven digs deep right from the start as the smell of freshly turned earth comes out right away. This is accomplished with an assortment of green notes, galbanum most prominent amongst them. A slight swirl of spices adds in the authenticity of what it smells like to have your shovel bite into the ground and turn it over. They are precisely balanced and they keep themselves in the background behind the greens. Tolu balm adds a balsamic foundation to the green and this is what really seals in the earthy quality Coven is attempting. Once this happens Coven lingers like playtime in a hole dug especially for that purpose. Despite Coven having this potentially heavy quality there is a lightheartedness that overtook me every time I wore it. It could be just my fond memories but I also think the perfume manages to keep from being ponderous and that is to its credit. Once we clean the dirt off we are left with patchouli and woods which carry enough of the remains of the day to remind you of where you’ve been.
Coven has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage.
You might not be enthused at the idea of smelling like dirt but Coven makes you not care. For those of you who love incense fragrances I think you might find Coven resonates in some of the same places as one of those perfumes. For those looking for a fragrance experience rarely seen Coven delivers very highly on the uniqueness scale. I found it captured my inner child in a muddy embrace that I never wanted to end.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Coven provided by Andrea Maack.
One of the most anticipated stops I made at this year’s Esxence was my very first one. Last year at Esxence I had the pleasure of meeting Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier the Creative Directors behind Naomi Goodsir Parfums. I was drawn in with their passion for creating fragrance which has a texture to it. Ms. Goodsir is a milliner and she creates some of the most amazing hats and accessories and all of them contain fabulous textural details. She would explain to me that she has the same desire to do that with perfume. As I walked toward Ms. Goodsir I saw a third bottle on the counter and was excited to try the new release, Or du Serail.
Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier chose perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour to collaborate with them on Or du Serail. The plan was to take a golden tobacco heart and attach various detailed notes to it thereby creating unusual tangents to follow down with your senses before returning to the core tobacco. There were many iterations as everyone involved searched for the right combination to achieve something much easier to say than to actually produce. At the end they have created a multi-layered fragrance full of fascinating olfactory nooks and crannies which reward the wearer who explores every facet offered.
Right from the start a complete golden tobacco accord is in place. This is the smell of the dried leaf hanging in the curing barn. It is so rich it exerts a hypnotic pull into its depths. M. Duchaufour has used this accord before but this time it seems to carry more substance than it has in the past. Once the tobacco has you under its spell M. Duchaufour starts adding to it with each new note adding a new texture. It starts with a bit of sage and the dried quality of herbal leaf and tobacco leaf form a desiccated texture. Next is a dried fruit accord and it adds a veneer of concentrated sweetness carrying you into a sticky phase. Mate returns you full circle to another dried leaf as the strong tea character overlays the tobacco with a bit of an edge. That edge is honed by amber to turn this shiny and modern at the end.
Or du Serail has overnight longevity and average sillage.
The Triple A by Naomi Goodsir
As I mentioned this was my first stop on my first day at Esxence. The success at achieving the textural concept behind Or du Serail was borne out as over the next twelve hours I would keep returning to the strip to find it recognizably different every time. Once I wore this over two days what I experienced on the strip was amplified. I was constantly entertained by this kaleidoscopic construct. For anyone looking for a different fragrance experience I recommend Or du Serail as something to savor for the achievement of realizing a concept so brilliantly.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Naomi Goodsir Parfums at Esxence 2014.