Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

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In Part 1 I took a wide view of the year in perfume that was 2019. Today I get very specific naming the very best of the year in four categories.

Perfume of the Year: Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse– Last year when I was doing my end of year summaries I had never heard of St. Louis-based independent perfumer Shawn Maher and his Chatillon Lux brand. I would catch up over 2019. Mr. Maher is representative of what makes independent perfumery special. He creates perfumes which reflect his hometown’s history and geography. I have enjoyed everything he has released this year. It was his last release of the year Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse that captured my attention most fully of any new perfume I tried this year.

One of the things which has drawn me to Mr. Maher is he shares his process through posts on the Chatillon Lux website. What these entries reveal is a perfumer who understands the materials he is using. He goes deep into the effect each ingredient has on the finished product. You can read the one for Weinstrasse here.

Weinstrasse was inspired by the Germans who migrated to St. Louis and began vineyards. What Weinstrasse captures are the smells of the late harvest. It begins from a clever accord of grapes on the vine using green cognac oil and blackcurrant bud. One thing I marvel at each time I wear Weinstrasse is the way Mr. Maher captures the glow of a late autumn sun. Many perfumes inspired by wine have a claustrophobic feeling. Mr. Maher creates a perfume with a golden glow of muted sunlight. It opens up the entire composition. In that blog post Mr. Maher wanted Weinstrasse to be his version of a fougere. The base is an overdose of the ingredient which defined the beginning of modern perfumery; coumarin. It adds that classic fougere-ish vibe without going fully into it. It fits surprisingly well with everything that has come before.

I believe Mr. Maher is a special talent who is only at the beginning of creating his perfumes. He will have a difficult time making a better perfume than Weinstrasse my choice for Perfume of the Year for 2019.

Perfumer of the Year: Cristiano Canali- Perfumer Cristiano Canali provided brilliant bookends for 2019. In January I was enthralled with Rubini Tambour Sacre only to be equally engaged by Zoologist Bee in December. Sig. Canali is not one of the most prolific or well-known perfumers. He has a layered style of making perfume that requires the right concept to allow it to flourish.

Working with Andrea Rubini and a talented creative team at Rubini Sig. Canali translated the sound of sacred drums from the Horn of Africa into a gorgeous composition in Tambour Sacre. Collaborating with Victor Wong of Zoologist for Bee he created a perfume of multiple layers of honey without falling into the places where honey can be difficult. He successfully traveled the tightrope necessary to make Bee memorable.

This became an easy choice because he was the only perfumer to create two of the ten perfumes I was considering for Perfume of the Year. That is why Cristiano Canali is the Perfumer of the Year for 2019.

Runner-Ups: Mandy Aftel, Antonio Gardoni, Olivia Giacobetti, Christophe Laudamiel, and Shawn Maher.

Creative Director(s) of the Year: Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano– There have been no creative direction in all of perfumery better than that provided by Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano. For the past six years they have followed a formula of working with the best young talented perfumers. Also giving them a brief and the latitude they wouldn’t find elsewhere to create one of the best collections you can find. The two perfumes released in 2019 continued that. Early in the year they worked with Vanina Muracciole to create a reconstructed chypre in Kintsugi. At the end of the year perfumer Caroline Dumur produced an elegiac rose rife with poignancy in Love Kills. Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi have consistently pushed independent perfumery to new heights while serving the young rising stars. For this and the perfume they oversaw in 2019 they are the Creative Directors of the Year for 2019.

Runner-ups: Christian Astuguevieille of Comme des Garcons, Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre d’Orange, Jan Ewoud Vos of Puredistance, and Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes.

Brand of the Year: Zoologist Perfumes– It is a modern miracle what Victor Wong has achieved with his brand Zoologist Perfumes. He is another creative director who seems to get the most out of his collaborators. In 2019 he worked with Joseph DeLapp on Dodo, Daniel Pescio on Chameleon, Celine Barel on Squid, and Cristiano Canali on Bee. No two of those perfumes are like the other. Mr. Wong has created a brand which has consistently impressed but 2019 was the best year they have had creatively. That is why Zoologist Perfumes is the Brand of the Year for 2019.

Runner-Ups: Aftelier Perfumes, Chatillon Lux, Comme des Garcons, and Masque Milano.

Part 1 is my broad overview of 2019.

The Top 25 will be published on Monday December 30.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Bee- The Best Buzz

This time of year is the only time where I feel a little rushed. I am literally down to the last few days left to me on the review calendar before I begin to compile my end-of-year lists. In previous years it is just trying to squeeze in those last perfumes of the year. This year the final six weeks of the year has seen one excellent perfume after another arrive in my mailbox. The final streak of reviews that will be coming are all from independent lines that have conspired to make my life joyously difficult. Whenever it is posited to me that there is nothing new to be seen in perfume, I would happily gather everything I’ll review over these last few days of 2019 as proof that is flat wrong.

Another by-product of the end-of-year thoughts is it forces me to look back to the beginning of the year. To remind myself of the perfumes which came earlier in the year that I want to remember. On the day I did that recently was the first day I was wearing Zoologist Bee. It ended up having an interesting parallel as I was reminded of the perfumer of something earlier in the year while wearing his latest.

Victor Wong

Whenever Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes has something new, I am interested. He has become one of the most reliable creative directors in all of perfumery. He has coaxed some of the best work out of the best independent perfumers in the world. One thing he does which almost seems like magic is he imposes a Zoologist style without overwriting the individual perfumer’s creativity. It is one of the major reasons I believe this has been such a broadly appealing collection. When I heard Mr. Wong was adding a perfume called Zoologist Bee I was excited to see what the interpretation of that would be. When Cristiano Canali was named as the perfumer my expectations soared.

Cristiano Canali

Sig. Canali is one of the most talented perfumers currently working. He has only signed three perfumes previously to Bee. Each of them shows a unique ability to capture his keynote and make it the central layer in a perfume which slowly evolves. He has worked with some of the hardest to tame ingredients only to survive brilliantly. In Bee he is taking on another ingredient not known to be easy to work with; honey.

Honey is notorious for its refractory nature and narrow band where it finds some joy as part of a fragrance. One of the smart things Sig. Canali does is to use beeswax as a surrogate for honey. It allows for there to be less of the actual material. It also allows for him to pick up on the animalic worker bee hum underneath the waxy sweetness. By weaving in a selection of florals, resins, musks and sandalwood he once again builds a multi-layered ode to creative perfumery.

Bee opens with the buzz of ginger in contrast to the honey. As I mentioned above this isn’t a honey that tilts towards a urine-like scent profile because the beeswax keeps it more firmly centered in the pleasant sweet spot. The ginger is also given more viscosity as it is called “ginger syrup” in the ingredient list. There isn’t the usual fidgety sibling quality you find with ginger. This is a quieter version made more memorable for not seeking out attention. It goes with the flow of the honey in and out of the waxy hexagons of the hive. Sig. Canali then crafts an accord which forms a floral honey accord to act as a kind of call and response to the top accord. Using heliotrope, orange blossom, mimosa and most importantly broom he finds similar harmonics to the trio of beeswax, honey, and ginger in the top. This is where Sig. Canali keeps impressing me. He finds ways to create echoes of the ingredients of his perfumes which resonate through the entire experience. The base accord than splits things up as benzoin and labdanum capture the sweetness in a resinous embrace. A suite of musks find that worker bee animalic. Sandalwood provides the final woody grounding while being made a bit creamier with a touch of vanilla.

Bee has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

As he has done so often Mr. Wong has found a new high for a perfumer I already thought highly of. He has become the consummate creative director. Sig. Canali has shown me, once again, that he is a singular perfume designer. There is nobody who designs perfumes which smell like his. When you combine two creative minds working at the top of their game there is no surprise that Zoologist Bee has the right buzz.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Zoologist.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Squid- Deep-Sea Aquatic

Anyone who has ever been in a boat on the ocean can tell you once you get out over deep water things change. The color goes from brilliant blue to deep indigo. If you dive underneath the water after a few feet you realize there is more below you than above you. There is also a scent to the ocean once you leave sight of shore. It has nothing to do with sea spray, suntan lotion, or tropical flowers. It is all about the briny depths. If you’ve ever wanted that in a perfume Zoologist Squid is here.

Victor Wong

Creative director-owner Victor Wong collaborates with perfumer Celine Barel. Their effort is to create an aquatic that represents the depths of the ocean. This an aquatic which is for those who don’t want the classic “fresh and clean” aesthetic characteristic of the style. Squid looks in the darker places far away from land. To accomplish that Mme Barel uses a couple of fabulously engineered accords she calls “black ink” and “salty”. The former is probably the factoid most people know about squid, they shoot ink to escape predators. In the case of a perfume accord I experienced it not so much as inky but as the deep indigo color of the open sea. The “salty” accord is, I think, an accumulation of the typical sea spray ingredients layered in a denser fashion. I believe I pick out things I recognize but there seems to be more weight to some of them. I would be interested to know how she decided to construct this.

Celine Barel

Squid opens on a top accord of incense and salicylates tuned by baie rose. It reminded me of the scent of the seaweed lines at the edge of the Gulf Stream. It is a green-tinted top accord which leads to that combination of “black ink” and “salty” accords. This is when Squid dives deep beneath the waves. It finds a weight to the typical aquatic style that is compelling. I could drift here for days in a salty pool of ink. Squid moves on with the most classic ocean perfume ingredient there is; ambergris. It provides the more typical style of brininess. In Squid it feels like I’ve surfaced from a dive to where the scent seems lighter. It is the only part of Squid which feels like an old-style aquatic.

Squid has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The depths of Squid make for an aquatic that is going to be even better in the chill of fall and winter. Where most of my aquatics go into hibernation after Labor Day, Squid will still be prowling my perfume shelf as a deep-sea aquatic with legs.  

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Chameleon- Field of Perfumes

Kevin Costner hears a voice tell him “If you build it, he will come.” at the beginning of the movie “Field of Dreams”. It is a call to do what you think is important to bring an outcome you desire. The saying has been altered by many to replace the “he” with “they”. This has then gone on to define efforts which willingly go outside of the mainstream. I have no idea if the creative director-owner of Zoologist Perfumes, Victor Wong, is a fan of the movie or the saying. What has become evident over five years of Zoologist making perfume is the belief that if you build interesting perfume, they will find it. The latest to be found is Zoologist Chameleon.

Victor Wong

One of the reasons for the success of his line is Mr. Wong finds his collaborators by also being a perfume fan. For Chameleon he met perfumer Daniel Pescio when he bought some vintage perfumes from him and M. Pescio added a sample of his own to the box. According to the interview with M. Pescio on the Zoologist website, Mr. Wong thought the perfume smelled very “French”. He filed the name away until he had the idea to do an ylang-ylang and vanilla focused perfume called Chameleon. One thing about M. Pescio is he is one of those shadows behind the scenes of the fragrance world. Chameleon is the first perfume I have smelled by him. In the interview he says he strives for “quality” of ingredients, “the balance”, and “the evolution”. Those are all things which come together to make compelling perfume.

Daniel Pescio

For Chameleon M. Pescio didn’t want to retread the typical ylang-ylang vanilla style which is out there. Instead of exploring the sweet floral aspects of ylang-ylang he focuses on my favorite part of the scent of this flower; its fleshiness underneath the sweet.  

Chameleon opens with a bouquet of fruity notes representing a tropical style. Threads of aquatic breezes blow through. The ylang-ylang rises to meet the fruits. In the first moments it smells like many ylang-ylang centric fruity florals. Rather quickly it drops into a lower harmonic as that quality I enjoy in ylang-ylang begins to be noticeable. I have enjoyed this because it was the basis of so many vintage perfumes where it would be paired with animalic ingredients for an incredible sensuality. M. Pescio moves towards a similar effect as he harnesses the confluence of cashemran, vanilla, and musks to farm a “salty skin accord”. This comes together to form a fascinating Retro Nouveau perfume.

Chameleon has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Chameleon is another Zoologist release which asks perfume lovers to come to what Mr. Wong is building. Over the past five years many have found it worth the trip. Chameleon is just another all-star player in Mr. Wong’s Field of Perfumes.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: For those of you who enjoy the visual with your perfume Mr. Wong has teamed up with artist “The Big in the Small” to create four unique prints based upon Chameleon. You can read, and see, more at this link.

New Perfume Review Zoologist Dodo- Extinction Protocol

There are few stories in independent perfumery as successful as that of Victor Wong. Mr. Wong went from being part of the gigantic group of people who talk about making perfume on Facebook to actually doing it. Even more remarkable is his business plan of asking some of the best independent artisan perfumers to design something for his Zoologist brand. He has acted as a creative director allowing the perfumers to create something he would like to smell. Mr. Wong has taken the way he wanted independent perfume to be and brought it to life. A little over four years ago he released his first perfume. At the beginning of his fifth year comes Zoologist Dodo.

Victor Wong

Following up last year’s Tyrannosaurus Rex it seems like Mr. Wong is working on the extinct side of the animal kingdom. For Dodo he collaborated with perfumer Joseph DeLapp. Mr. DeLapp has his own artisanal line of attars he distills himself called Rising Phoenix. According to his interview on the Zoologist website Mr. DeLapp only rarely works in alcohol based Eau de Parfum. He has a line ready to go but it seems like Dodo will be his first. He also mentioned in the same interview that he wanted to make an EdP which was as dense as an attar. He doesn’t quite manage that. What he does achieve is something more open and appealing.

Joseph DeLapp

Mr. Wong wanted a fougere as part of his line. Mr. DeLapp had been working on a fougere as part of his own brand. They met in the middle in producing Dodo. This is a fougere which only comes from this kind of creative genetics.

Dodo opens in a tropical jungle redolent of green foliage and exotic fruits of lychee, lime, and raspberry. Mr. DeLapp deftly chaperones the three fruity ingredients allowing them to create a humid tropical jungle accord. This transitions into a floral heart accord of rose over ambergris and fir. The fir deepens the foliage effect from the top accord into something more pine-like. This s where Dodo becomes most like an attar. Rose is a classic attar ingredient and the one used here has all the rich quality of an attar rose. Mr. DeLapp uses the ambergris as the supporting ingredient to lift that rose up. The base accord continues the slowly intensifying green with oakmoss anchoring it with its noir-ish quality. Mr. DeLapp threads through a lightly animalic musk, patchouli, and amber to complete the tropical jungle milieu.

Dodo has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

One of the things I have admired about Mr. Wong is he has often brought out the best work of the perfumers he has worked with. Dodo is another case of this. I like this better than any of the attars I’ve tried from Rising Phoenix; and those are very good. I am now very much hoping Mr. DeLapp finds a way to produce his own line of Eau de Parfums. Dodo is another success of Mr. Wong’s extinction protocol for perfume.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Zoologist.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex- Force Multipliers

When two creative people you admire team-up you probably expect to find something that is more than the sum of its parts. It has been one of the characteristics of the creative direction Victor Wong has produced for his Zoologist Perfumes brand. I think he has helped the independent perfumers he collaborates with to produce some of their best perfumes ever. In the perfume whisper stream, I had heard that one of the most creative independent perfumers, Antonio Gardoni, and Mr. Wong were trying to find a way to team-up on a perfume. The rumors have been realized as Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex has been released.

There are a few independent perfumers who have quite as distinctive a signature as Sig. Gardoni. He was the unnamed perfumer for a different brand and the aesthetic nearly screamed his name when you tried it. Until he was revealed as the perfumer he must have become bored with being asked if he was. Sig. Gardoni has excelled at opening phases which are compelling. If there has been a consistent drawback it is the rest of the perfumes sometimes suffer from a clutter of ingredients heading off in many directions. My hope was that Mr. Wong could be the kind of traffic cop who could keep the perfume flowing without jamming up. For the most part I think this is what takes place.

Victor Wong (l.) and Antonio Gardoni

It begins with the bold opening I expected as twin pillars of smoke via cade oil and frankincense. This is amplified with notes of fir, and black pepper. This is acrid smoke the kind that makes you cough if you get too much. Sig. Gardoni captures the violence of air on fire. What twists it all is you also smell the flowers that are burning as champaca, jasmine, neroli, and ylang-ylang capture a primordial tropical milieu. It is a completely Gardoni style opening. Now the question was would this burn to the ground or soar. Mr. Wong does oversee a much more concise trip to the finish by concentrating on a set of woods and animalic ingredients to produce the giant dinosaur in the name erupting from the forest. It starts as cedar and sandalwood begin to push back at the smoke. A classically constructed birch tar leather accord joins in with civet to make the animalic accord. This is far less complicated than the typical Gardoni finish and much better for it.

Tyrannosaurus Rex has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is by far the most avant-garde release from Zoologist. It is not going to be a crowd pleasing easy-to-wear style of perfume. It is also another example of how Mr. Wong can accentuate the positives of the perfumers he works with. Tyrranosaurus Rex is a show of creative force multipliers producing something amazing.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Hyrax- Hyraceum Happens

One of the reasons I find perfume so fascinating is it makes what you might think should smell bad something that smells good. Most of those smells originate from the anal region of different animals. One of the most unique is the ingredient hyraceum, or Africa Stone. Hyraceum is the petrified form of the excrement of a small rodent-like creature known as a Cape hyrax. It has been a seldom used ingredient, but I have generally enjoyed it. It provides a funky animalic aspect that the various musks do not.

Hyraxes!

My most memorable experience with the raw ingredient was at Pitti Fragranze in Florence a couple years ago. There I was given the opportunity to smell it in its unadulterated form. I gagged. It smelled like…um…excrement; concentrated excrement. Then I was shown how, as you dilute it, the gag-inducing turns into a rough leathery ingredient. It is this which gets used most often. When I received my sample of Zoologist Hyrax I had a feeling I would be smelling some hyraceum.

Victor Wong

The owner and creative director of Zoologist, Victor Wong, has been working with different independent perfumers ever since the beginning of his brand. For Hyrax he chose to collaborate with perfumer Sven Pritzkoleit. Mr. Pritzkoleit has his own brand, SP Perfumes, which has been in existence since 2016. I’ve tried most of his releases for that brand. The best is when he uses the animalic ingredients. Those are what he seems to have the keenest intuition about. With some creative direction I expected Hyrax would be pretty good. I was correct. The reason I like it so much is it embraces the animalic in a boozy embrace of whisky.

Sven Prtizkoleit

Hyrax opens with a huge shot of hyraceum. If you aren’t expecting it, you might be wanting to get your arm as far away as you can. It is like turning on the amplifier without noticing someone has pegged the volume. It is so strong it almost carries its own kind of distortion wave. Mr. Pritzkoleit goes to work turning the volume down. At first saffron and pink pepper start to tame the hyraceum. Then a fabulous shot of whisky does the job. Like the hyraceum is soaked in a glass of Jack Daniels. I fell for this each day I wore it. So much so that when the more pedestrian patchouli and amber arrive to finish this off I had a slight twinge of disappointment.

Hyrax has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Hyrax is the most animalic perfume released by Zoologist. It is a couple of levels stronger than Civet. For those who enjoy the brand you can use that as guidance for what your personal affinity might be for Hyrax. I have a special place in my perfumed heart for fragrances like Hyrax; always have. Which means I’m happy to shrug my shoulders and say “hyraceum happens” while spraying myself with more Hyrax.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Zoologist.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Perfumes Civet- Additive or Multiplicative?

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I have a hypothesis about artisanal perfumers. I believe they would be much better if they had someone who would give them honest advice. I know many reach out to friends and customers but these aren’t necessarily impartial. I receive perfumes from artisanal creators who can’t stop altering them. In rare cases, I’ve received six different supposedly finished versions. It is hard to work by yourself which makes it easy for doubts to creep in. This can lead to that dilemma of the perfume being never quite finished in the perfumer’s mind. There is one brand which is helping to show that the best artisanal perfumers given creative direction and evaluation can have a positive impact; Zoologist Perfumes.

Victor Wong

Victor Wong is the owner and creative director of the brand. In two years, over eight perfumes he has worked with six different artisanal perfumers. In every case the collaboration has produced some of the best work from each of the perfumers. With perfumer Shelley Waddington he first collaborated with her on Hummingbird released late in 2015. In that perfume, there was a real extension of Ms. Waddington’s facility with bright florals and luscious fruity notes. Now they have re-united for the latest release, Civet.

Ms. Waddington really blossomed as a perfumer in 2013 and has continued to improve since then. One particular standout for me was a trio of perfumes she released, under her EnVoyage Perfumes brand, called “Souvenir de Chocolate” in which she combined gourmand effects on top of vintage accords. There was one called Café Cacao where she paired ambergris and musk with coffee and chocolate. For Civet, the pairing of animalic and gourmand is explored again plus a blowsy tuberose also joins the fun.

Shelley Waddington

The early moments of Civet are a judicious dusting of black pepper and tarragon over a fizzy set of citrus notes of lemon and orange. The spices are what move towards the heart allowing carnation to use its natural clove character to transport them towards the tuberose waiting there. This is tuberose in all of its glory. Which means it is intense it also means it is creamy with a camphoraceous grace note that if you love the classic vintage tuberoses it will remind you of that. Ms. Waddington skillfully surrounds the tuberose with a host of other florals to provide depth and texture to the overall effect. The coffee comes next and it is a plusher version of the note than I normally encounter. What has this softening effect is the synthetic version of civet oil, civettone. There are a group of perfume ingredients which only become pleasant in high dilution; civetone is one of them. The high dilution also helps in allowing the coffee to stand up to the stronger animalic nature of the synthetic civet. The tuberose is also still here and this is where Civet is finally complete as the tuberose, coffee, and civet form a complete accord. The remainder of Civet is a chypre accord comprised of leather, vetiver, oakmoss, and labdanum. If you’re a chypre lover this is not a perfume which I would primarily call it a chypre. It certainly ends there but it is the trio at the heart which give Civet its true voice.

Civet has 24-hour longevity and huge sillage. This is a powerhouse in every way that term is used in perfumery.

I imagine the effort Ms. Waddington and Mr. Wong put in to get this just right was prodigious. It shows in the final product. Civet is the best perfume of both of their careers to date. Which leads me back to my hypothesis. When two things come together you have to ask if they are additive, as in 3+3=6, or are they multiplicative, as in 3X3=9. Ideally the latter is what you are looking for. With Civet Mr. Wong and Ms. Waddington have multiplicatively created a spectacular perfume.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2016 Year-End Review Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, & Brand of the Year

As I mentioned in Part 1 2016 is the beginning of a generational shift in perfumery. The winners I am going to highlight next are all emblematic of that kind of change.

Perfume of the Year: Masque Milano L’Attesa– One of the emerging initiatives over the course of 2016 has been the confidence owners and creative directors have placed in young perfumers. For a brand, it is safer to round up one of the more established names. It takes a bit of faith to place the success of your business in the hands of an emerging artist. The team behind Masque Milano, Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, have taken on this philosophy wholeheartedly. Particularly over the last four releases since 2013; Tango by Cecile Zarokian, Russian Tea by Julien Rasquinet, and Romanza by Cristiano Canali, began the trend. This year’s release L’Attesa by Luca Maffei took it to a new level.

Riccardo Tedeschi, Luca Maffei, and Alessandro Brun (l. to r.)

I spent time with the creative team when they unveiled L’Attesa at Esxence 2016. I think when you do something creative you have a sense when you have done great work. That day in Milan all three men radiated that kind of confidence; with good reason. Sig. Maffei would combine three sources of iris to provide a strong core of the central note. Early on there is a champagne accord that is not meant to be the bubbly final product but the yeasty fermentation stage. It turns the powdery iris less elegant but more compelling for its difference. Through a white flower heart to a leathery finish L’Attesa is as good as it gets.

Cecile Zarokian with Puredistance Sheiduna

Perfumer of the Year: Cecile Zarokian– Majda Bekkali Mon Nom est Rouge, in 2012, was the first perfume by Cecile Zarokian which made me think she was something special. Over the years since then she has done some spectacular work but 2016 was an exceptional year. Mme Zarokian produced thirteen new releases for seven different brands. I chose her because of the breadth of the work she turned in over the year. I am reasonably certain that this kind of output has rarely been matched. The pinnacle of this group was her re-formulation of Faths Essentials Green Water. Mme Zarokian accomplished the near impossible by formulating a 2016 version which is as good as the original. She did this because she understood what made the original was its ridiculous concentration of neroli oil. She convinced creative director Rania Naim to spend the money for this now precious material to be replicated in the same concentration. This made Green Water amazingly true to its name.

She would recreate a Persian feast in Parfums MDCI Fetes Persanes. Picking up on some of the same themes she would infuse some of the gourmand elements into a rich oud in Making of Cannes Magie du Desert.  She modernized the oud in Hayari New Oud. In Uer Mi OR+Cashmere she creates a hazelnut rum cocktail. Laboratorio Olfattivo Nerotic goes for a more narcotic effect. Finally working with creative director Jan Ewoud Vos they conspired to reinterpret the Oriental creating a contemporary version in Puredistance Sheiduna.

Every perfume she made this year was worth smelling. As this next generation of perfumers moves into the next phase Mme Zarokian is going to be right there in the front pushing perfumery forward. For this joie de vivre about perfumery Cecile Zarokian is my Perfumer of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Luca Maffei, Quentin Bisch, Christine Nagel, Jerome Epinette, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, and Antonio Gardoni.

Creative Director of the Year: Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes- For the ten years plus I’ve been writing about perfume I have chanted a single mantra; embrace difference, don’t play it safe, stake out an artistic vision and stick with it. There are way too few who embrace this. Because it isn’t easy there is a graveyard of some who tried and failed. All of which makes what Victor Wong has been doing with his brand Zoologist Perfumes more admirable. Two years ago, he started Zoologist Perfumes making the transition from enthusiast to owner/creative director. He wanted to work with some of the most talented artisanal perfumers to produce his perfumes. What is so refreshing about this approach is he has been working with many of the most recognizable artisans providing them outside creative direction for one of the few times. What it has elicited from these perfumers is often among the best work they have produced. For the three 2016 releases Bat with Ellen Covey, Macaque with Sarah McCartney, and Nightingale with Tomoo Inaba this has been particularly true. Bat is one of the perfumes which was in the running for my Perfume of the Year. Macaque and Nightingale do not play it safe in any way. This makes for a perfume brand which does not look for the lowest common denominator but asks if there is something more beautiful in unfettered collaboration. For Victor Wong and Zoologist Perfumes 2016 answers this with a resounding yes which is why he is my choice for Creative Director of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Jan Ahlgren (Vilhelm Parfumerie), Ben Gorham (Byredo), Roberto Drago (Laboratorio Olfattivo), and Carlos Huber (Arquiste).

Brand of the Year: Hermes– In 2003 Hermes in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena would begin his tenure. Over the next thirteen years his overall collection for the brand has defined a modern aesthetic which now has become synonymous with the brand as much as silk scarves and fine leather goods. When it was announced two years ago, Christine Nagel would begin the transition to becoming the new in-house perfumer there was some concern. I was not one of those who had any worries. Mme Nagel felt like a natural evolution from M. Ellena. 2016 proved my surmise to be true as M. Ellena released his presumed final two fragrances for the brand, Eau de Neroli Dore and Hermessence Muguet Porcelaine while Mme Nagel released her first two, Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate and Galop D’Hermes. The passing of the torch could not have gone smoother. Hermes is in great hands as the next generation takes over. That this was accomplished so beautifully effortless is why Hermes is my Brand of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Byredo, Vilhelm Parfumerie, Tauer Perfumes/Tauerville, and Zoologist Perfumes.

Part 1 was my broad overview of the year yesterday.

Part 3 tomorrow will be my Top 25 new perfumes of 2016.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2016 Year-End Review Part 1- Overview

3

2016 will probably go down as a pivotal year in the perfume business. As an observer of much of the field this year I have seen change in almost every place I can see. Which leads me to believe it is also taking place behind the scenes where I am not able to know the entire story. Change like this can be unsettling which has made for some worrying trends but overall I think it has contributed to another excellent year. I smelled a little less this year than last year; 680 new perfumes versus 2015’s 686. Surprisingly the amount of new releases has also plateaued with 1566 new releases in 2016 versus 1676 last year. Maybe we have defined the amount of new perfume the market can bear. Over the next three days I will share my thoughts on the year coming to an end.

We are told in Ecclesiastes, or by The Byrds if you prefer; “To every thing there is a season” and so it is in perfume as the season of the Baby Boomers has ended and the Millennials have taken over. This younger generation is now larger, has more discretionary income, and is spending more on perfume than the Boomers are per multiple sources. While the public at large was made aware of it this year the industry could see the change coming a year, or more, prior. What that meant for 2016 as far as fragrance went was every corporate perfume entity was on a fishing expedition to see if they could be the one who lured this group of consumers towards them. The drive for this is huge because lifelong brand loyalties can be formed right now within this group. Certainly, the enduring trends of the next few years in fragrance will be determined by where they spend their money. All of that has made 2016 fascinating because at the end of the year that answer is no clearer than it was at the beginning. The prevailing themes, based on what was provided to them, is they want lighter in sillage and aesthetic, gourmand, and different. That last category is the ephemeral key I think. The brand which can find them in the place where they Periscope, Snapchat, and Instagram is going to have an advantage.

Christine Nagel (l.) and Olivier Polge

There was also generational change taking place at two of the most prestigious perfume brands, Hermes and Chanel. The new in-house perfumers for both took full control in 2016. Christine Nagel released Hermes Eau du Rhubarbe Ecarlate and Galop D’Hermes. Olivier Polge released Chanel Boy and Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. This shows both talented artists know how to take an existing brand aesthetic and make it their own.

Cecile Zarokian, Quentin Bisch, Luca Maffei (l. to r.)

The next generation of perfumers exemplified by Cecile Zarokian, Quentin Bisch, and Luca Maffei loomed large this year. Mme Zarokian did thirteen new releases in 2016 all of them distinctively delightful from the re-formulation of Faths Essentials Green Water to the contemporary Oriental Puredistance Sheiduna. M. Bisch brilliantly reinvented one of the masterpieces of perfume in Thierry Mugler Angel Muse. Sig. Maffei released ten new fragrances with Masque Milano L’Attesa, Laboratorio Olfattivo MyLO, and Jul et Mad Secrets du Paradis Rouge showcasing his range. 

There were also fascinating collaborations this year. Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari contributed Cadavre Exquis an off-beat gourmand. Josh Meyer and Sam Rader conspired to create a Northern California Holiday bonfire in Dasein Winter Nights. Victor Wong the owner and creative director of Zoologist Perfumes was able to get the most out of independent perfumers like Ellen Covey in Bat and Sarah McCartney in Macaque.

Some of the independent perfumers I look to surprisingly released perfumes which did not please me. Thankfully there were new ones who stepped up to fill in the gap. Lesli Wood Peterson of La Curie, Ludmila and Antoine Bitar of Ideo Parfumeurs, and Eugene & Emrys Au of Auphorie did that. Chritsti Meshell of House of Matriarch made an ambitious economic move into Nordstrom while producing two of my favorites from her in Albatross and Kazimi.

The mainstream sector had another strong year as the mall continues to have diamonds hidden amongst the dross. In 2016 that meant Elizabeth & James Nirvana Bourbon, Alford & Hoff No. 3, SJP Stash, Prada Infusion de Mimosa, Thierry Mugler Angel Muse, and Chanel No. 5 L’Eau were there to be found.

If the beginning of the year was all about rose the overall year was a renaissance for neroli perfumes. Jean-Claude Ellena’s swan song for Hermes; Eau de Neroli Dore. The afore mentioned Green Water along with Jo Malone Basil & Neroli and Hiram Green Dilettante showed the versatility of the note.

The acquisition of niche brands continued with Estee Lauder buying By Kilian and L’Oreal doing the same with Atelier Cologne. The acquisitions of Frederic Malle and Le Labo, two years ago, seem to have been positive steps for both brands. Especially seeing Le Labo in my local mall getting such a positive reception made me believe that if the good niche brands can become more available the consumer will appreciate the difference.

Tomorrow I will name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

The next day I will reveal my Top 25 New Releases of 2016.

Mark Behnke