2019 First-Half Report

1

I always like to look back at the first half of the perfume year every July. I enjoy trying to pick out the emerging trends and to give the best releases of the first half of the year some more love.

Christopher Chong

Before I get to that though the biggest news of the first six months of 2019 was the departure of Christopher Chong as Creative Director at Amouage. At this time it isn’t clear what that means for the brand or where Mr. Chong will eventually be making perfume again. If both resolve over the next six months those will probably be headlines for my end of year wrap-up.

I feel like I’ve found more new brands to be impressed with over these past six months. Maison Violet is a heritage brand doing it well. Chatillon Lux and the perfumer behind it, Shawn Maher, have an incredible collection already of which Lamplight Penance is one of the best of the year. Ryan Richmond Rich Mess was far from that description; it was a crazy thrill ride of a perfume.

A couple of brands followed up strong 2018’s with even better releases this year. Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede is a lightweight leather that I enjoy the more I wear it. Goldfield & Banks Velvet Splendour is a mimosa fragrance I have also spent a few summer days wearing.

There were two very limited editions, which sold out in hours, which are among the best of the year. Bogue 0,7738 is Antonio Gardoni at his best. Hans Hendley for American Perfumer Bloodline is an homage to the perfumer’s Texas heritage via a red cedar oil from his home.

Two brands which I haven’t heard from for awhile made impressive returns. Rubini Tambour Sacre re-assembled the creative team from the debut Fundamental. This time they found the sacred rhythm of excellent perfume. Dannielle Sergent took her Cognoscenti brand in a layered floral direction with Warrior Queen.

Finally there are three perfumes which are at the top of my list for the first half of 2019.

Hiram Green Lustre is a breathtaking rose soliflore on an all-natural palette.

Nishane Ani takes what you think you know about vanilla in perfume and evolves it.

Talc de IUNX is as good as it gets from Olivia Giacobetti. I’m always pleased to get something new from her this time I can’t forget about it.

The fall releases are starting to show up in my mailbox. Based on early returns I am expecting the last half to be as good or better than the first half of 2019.

As always thank you for reading.

Mark Behnke

Thank You: Colognoisseur’s Fifth Anniversary

3

I’m not a big believer on looking backward. I’d rather keep moving forward. One thing that I learned when I was cycling regularly was how gratifying it was to look back over my shoulder as I crested a big hill. You could take pleasure in the work it took to get there by seeing the sloping path behind you. Today I’m choosing to look back at the five years of doing this blog with pleasure.

When I hit publish on February 1, 2014 I wasn’t sure I could write one new piece on perfume every day. I had a 90-day plan on that day; to find out that extended to an 1,826-day plan is that path I am writing about. I haven’t missed one day in five years. The biggest reason is the readers. To extend the cycling analogy it was the people who read Colognoisseur who cheered me on as I kept pedaling up the hill. Today I’d like to thank the readers by sharing a few stories.

One of the stories which has generated some of the loveliest e-mails has been my “How to Give Perfume as a Gift”. I’ve had a couple who chose a perfume for their 50th wedding anniversary. I’ve had a bride and groom use it for their wedding day scents. My very favorite was the e-mail I received from a father and his daughter as they used it to find a perfume for her Sweet Sixteen. The daughter has worn the perfume they chose, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, ever since. It is one of the most popular posts on Colognoisseur which provides me with real evidence that the words I write can make perfume a part of people’s lives.

The other e-mail I receive which pleases me is when I review a new independent perfumer followed by a reader who seeks the perfume out. Part of what I wanted to do was to make sure Colognoisseur would give positive exposure to these artists who work outside the mass-market. Most of the time the readers find something to enjoy, as I did. Sometimes I do get e-mail wondering if there is something wrong with my nose. I am thankful for those communications, too. They are reminders that what I write is one man’s opinion, not meant to represent anything more than that.

One part of doing the blog for this long is the responses I get to my The Sunday Magazine pieces. That is where I allow my non-perfume passions to peek out from behind the bottles. The readers seem to enjoy debating those things. None more so than my enjoyment of Twin Peaks: The Return. I think there are still some who think I have lost it over that.

I’ve received amazing random acts of kindness from readers who send me things which I mention in my writing. I’ve gotten perfume. I’ve also received recipes for gingerbread as well as a new way to make plum rum. All because I’ve written about a perfume. All because Colognoisseur has become a part of people’s reading.

Thank you is such a small phrase to carry as much weight as it does. To every person who has read Colognoisseur over the past five years; Thank you.

Mark Behnke

My Mother’s Christmas Present

1

Last year’s Christmas post was triggered by smelling some vintage Guerlain Mitsouko. Writing that was like a fever dream which spilled out of me. In the days after I posted that my memory was jogged again about a Christmas Eve shopping trip with my father to buy my mother a present. It seemed like the appropriate follow-up to last year’s story.

The reason there is a cliché about men shopping on Christmas Eve is because there is some truth there. My father and I would get up every Christmas Eve to go shopping for gifts for my mother. I never thought there was any other way to do it. I don’t know this, but I suspect my mother enjoyed a bit of the lull before the storm by having us out of the house.

Downtown Miami Jordan-Marsh 1960-ish

I loved the shopping expedition because we went to the most elegant department store in Miami; Jordan-Marsh. This was when stores like this were wonderlands filled with the latest technology. I was fascinated with the glass room which contained the record players and sound systems. You would step into the soundproofed booth to be surrounded by stereo sound…stereo! I remember walking from one speaker to the other realizing I was hearing different things from each one. It was a modern marvel.

The housewares department was even more fantastic with the latest and the greatest. There was someone demonstrating non-stick frying pans. Look! Melted cheese slides right out! There was an ice cream parlor where we would have lunch. There were people buying wine in the Wine Cellar. It wasn’t sensory overload it was just enough to satiate my need for novel experiences.

We would look all around the store considering this new-fangled thing or that. I remember advocating for the non-stick frying pan one year. We ended up at the same place every year standing at the Women’s Fragrance counter.

My mother wore only two perfumes Guerlain Mitsouko and Guerlain Shalimar. When we got to the counter a nicely dressed woman would patiently greet the latest clueless males venturing into unknown territory. We would mention that those were the perfumes my mother wore. We would be offered paper strips with the latest perfume. “Straight from Paris” she would say.  My father and the saleswoman would begin to talk. I tuned them out as I smelled the strip. I tried to imagine my mother smelling like what was on the paper. I couldn’t. To me my mother simply smelled like Mitsouko or Shalimar. There was no alternative.

When my father asked me about the new perfume, I would reply I didn’t think Mom would like it. I think my Dad thought so too but he let me be the bearer of disappointing news to the saleswoman. He would ask for one of the two Guerlains and we had finished. We would go upstairs to gift wrapping and get an extravagantly intricate design.

On Christmas morning when I would hand my mother the gift from Dad and me; she undoubtedly knew what was inside. She would carefully undo the wrapping paper. Pulling out the box she would smile at Dad and I with the words, “My favorite!”

It wasn’t the perfect gift; whatever that might have been. It was a gift which told my mother we loved the way she smelled.

Mark Behnke

‘Twas the Practically Perfect Night Before Christmas

This is the ninth year I have done a variation on the classic “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore for my Christmas Eve post. For 2017 I was a bit inspired by another magical character Mary Poppins. I imagined Jolly Scent Nick as a Christmas version of the practically perfect nanny.

Here we are, 17 Poodlesville Lane. Home of Colognoisseur, Mrs. C, and the poodles Jackson and Henry. Looks like the winds from the east. What’s about to happen has happened before.

I was letting the poodles in from their final patrol of the moonlit Christmas Eve yard. I looked at the stockings, hung so neatly. Mrs. C had just fallen asleep with two poodle balls of cuteness snuggled next to her. While I was out, I felt the wind shift; wondering if that was for good or ill. Then answer came when an incredible racket was heard in the sky. I knew it must be magic because Mrs. C and the poodles continued to dream oblivious to the noise I heard.

I ran to the picture window to see a silhouette flit across the full moon. It looked like a sleigh being pulled by eight reindeer. I heard the driver shout out their names; Now Coco! Now Jacques! Now Jean and Francois! On Robert! On Yves! On Annick and Estee! Head for the roof!

Eau de Family

As I heard the hooves above me a noise from the fireplace drew my attention. With a whoosh Scent Nick was there. A slight scent of amber accompanied his appearance. An ahem preceded him observing, “close your mouth we are not codfish”. He was dressed as the last time I had seen him; red coat and pants trimmed with white fur. The delicate tinkle of crystal in the bag over his shoulder let me know it was full of bottles. His eyes sparkled with mischief. His dimples radiated joy. His cheeks were matching roses. The nose? That was a cherry. He gazed upon me with a smile surrounded by a beard white as snow.

Scent Nick had always made Christmas brighter for me. He let out a belly laugh which I always heard as “Eau, Eau, Eau” instead of the more traditional laugh he was known for. I asked excitedly what he had for me in the bag. He said to me, “Why complicate things that are really quite simple? Close your eyes and breathe in.”

As I did the scents of home washed over me. The cookies Mrs. C had cooling. The poodle’s sweet muskiness. Even the woodsmoke smell Scent Nick had stirred up upon his arrival. I heard a whisper in my ear, just before I opened my eyes, “Anything can happen if you let it.”

As I looked around, I heard Scent Nick whistle followed by the sound of the reindeer launching into the air. As I watched them fly away, he said “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night”. My heart filled with joy I turned from the window to see a delicate crystal flacon. The label on its side read “Eau de Family”.

The wind has shifted again with the departure of Scent Nick. The denizens of 17 Poodlesville Lane slept with a contented soul. Until it happens again a year from now.

I could easily have found a flacon labeled “Eau de Readers”. This year has brought me a great deal of joy sharing my thoughts about perfume. Part of that has been the interactions I have with many of you. To everyone who visits here I wish you the most magical of Holiday seasons. I think Scent Nick has some other stops to make.

Mark Behnke

A Tribute to Vero Kern 1940-2018

2

When I tell people, I write about perfume the most frequent response I receive is, “Why?” My response usually takes a few seconds, maybe a minute, to say. I’ve realized there is a more succinct answer to the query, “Vero Kern”.

I would meet Vero for the first time through her perfume Rubj. Vero was at the forefront of independent perfumery. Those of you who have known Vero for longer will no doubt understand her wanting to be as independent about perfume as she was in the rest of her life. What it means when applied to fragrance making is an artist’s touch. The perfume you buy in the department store can be beautiful, but they are commerce. The kind of perfume Vero made was the expression of a creative mind who spoke in scented constructions. When I met Vero via Rubj Eau de Parfum I was greeted with the smell of passionfruit.

This is another aspect of Vero which I celebrate; the passion she gave to her work. In the form of the fruit but also in the meticulous way she designed her pieces. She didn’t release her first three perfumes until she had spent years achieving her vision. Those first three releases, Kiki. Onda, and Rubj were in the most concentrated form perfume takes, extrait. They were powerful statements of intent, of what perfume could aspire to. She dared you to see it differently.

Vero and Isi

The passionfruit arrived as she spent three years re-imagining her first three releases in a less concentrated form, eau de parfum. This is not just a process of dilution. It is a process of understanding what will happen upon making what was stronger more expansive. It opens spaces which need filling. Vero chose a little used perfume ingredient called passionfruit. The reason it was little used is it was an obstreperous material to use. No matter how much you tried to keep it down it would stubbornly get back up and persist. I think Vero might have recognized herself in that. How she would use that is she allowed the passionfruit to have those newly opened spaces in the lighter style of eau de parfum. She also made sure it wasn’t drowning out the inherent beauty.

In Rubj the passionfruit would find the outsized floral personalities of jasmine and orange blossom igniting a perfume which had all the sizzle of a huge firework exploding. This was the beauty one could only find from an independent artist like Vero.

I would come face-to-face with the outsized personality of Vero when I attended a large perfume expo in Milan. What came through in person was the mischievous glint in her eye. She had the artist’s disdain for the commercial style of perfume being displayed. I asked her what she thought. Of course, she answered that it was all dreadful. A few years later she had come to like me enough to use a more colorful term than dreadful.

Vero and I in Milan as she presented Rozy in 2014

My favorite memory of Vero happened at the same expo, three years later, in 2014. She was releasing her newest perfume Rozy. I had an appointment to meet her; allowing her to show me the new release. When I arrived, Vero was sitting in a chair sporting a black eye. My first thought was I bet the other person looks worse. When Vero told me, she had fallen I was somewhat relieved it was just an accident. There was a kind of rakish style to her one bruised eye behind her white-rimmed glasses. Despite all my concern about Vero when she handed me the strip of paper with the new perfume on it, magic happened. I was under the spell of what I consider to be the best post-modern rose perfume ever made. As I breathed in with eyes closed it was the same feeling I get when encountering artistic genius.

When I opened my eyes with a silly smile on my face the twinkle in her one bruised eye and one normal one showed she was pleased that she had one admirer of her work. Vero is the kind of artist who could only have thrived in the independent perfumery world. Her perfumes will continue to live and speak to her creativity. I have no doubt of that.

Vero’s perfumes will always carry the impact of her vision on the rest of my life. I will miss the joie de vivre of the person who enjoyed creating art via perfume.

Why do I write about perfume? Vero Kern.

Mark Behnke

The 2017 Midterm Review

We’ve reached the midway point of 2017 which causes me to pause and take stock of what the year has been like in fragrance so far. In very general terms I think it has been the best year at this point since I started Colognoisseur in 2014. Here are some more specific thoughts.

Many of the leaders of artistic perfumery have stepped up in 2017. Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle Superstitious is an example as perfumer Dominique Ropion working with the other two names on the bottle created a hazy memory of vintage perfume. Christine Nagel composed Hermes Eau des Meveilles Bleue a brilliant interpretation of the aquatic genre. Clara Molloy and Alienor Massenet celebrated ten years of working together with Eau de Memo; it turns into a celebration of what’s right in this sector.

The independent perfumers have continued to thrive. In the independent sector, very individual statements have found an audience. Bruno Fazzolari Feu Secret, Vero Profumo Naja, Imaginary Authors Saint Julep, and Tauer L’Eau. Plus, I have another four I could have added but I haven’t reviewed them yet. My enthusiasm when I do will give them away. There is a bounty of creativity thriving on the outskirts of town.

Standing out on their own. Two perfumers I admire struck out on their own establishing their own brands. Michel Almairac created Parle Moi de Parfum. Jean-Michel Duriez has put his name on the label and opened a boutique in Paris. Both show each perfumer allowing their creativity unfettered freedom to some great results.

-Getting better and better. I look to see if young brands can continue the momentum they begin with. The two Vilhelm Parfumerie releases; Do Not Disturb and Harlem Bloom, have shown this brand is creating a deeply satisfying collection. Masque Milano is also doing that. Their latest release Times Square shows creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are unafraid to take risks. In the case of Times Square, it succeeds. Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes keeps trusting his instincts while working with some of the best indie perfumers. He and Shelley Waddington got 2017 off to a flying start with Civet.

-Mass-market has been good but not great. I have found much to like at the mall in the first half of this year. Much more than last year. My problem is I think I’m going to have to remind myself about these perfumes a year from now. I think they are trying to take tiny steps towards something new. It might even be the right choice for this sector of fragrance buyer, the exception is Cartier Baiser Fou. Mathilde Laurent’s evocation of fruit flavored lip gloss; that I’m going to remember.

The Teacher’s Pets are Rodrigo and Luca. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has always been one of my favorite perfumers. For 2017 he has returned to his roots in Mexico where he produced two collections of exceptional perfume. For Arquiste Esencia De El Palacio in conjunction with Carlos Huber they created a luxurious look at the country of their birth. Sr. Flores-Roux then collaborated with Veronica Alejandra Pena on a new line based in Mexico City; Xinu. These were perfumes which allowed him to indulge an indie sensibility. It all came together in Monstera a crunchy green gem of a fragrance. That leaves out the three Black Collection perfumes he did for Carner Barcelona; and those should not be left out.

Luca Maffei is one of the many reasons for the Renaissance of Italian Perfumery. In 2017, it seems like he is trying to prove it all on his own. He has been behind eleven releases by seven different brands. Taken together they show his exceptional versatility. The one which really shows this off is the work he did for Fath’s Essentials. Working with creative director Rania Naim he took all his Italian inspiration and transformed it into a characteristic French aesthetic. Nowhere is this more evident than in Lilas Exquis.

I am glad I still have six months’ time to find some daylight between these two for my Perfumer of the Year. Right now I’d have to declare it a tie.

My overall grade for Perfume 2017 at the midterm is a solid B+ there is much more to be admired than to make me slap my forehead. I am looking forward to the rest of the term to finalize this grade, hopefully upward.

Mark Behnke

Commes des Garcons Olfactory Library- The Return of the Trendsetters

When the discussion turns to what the first niche perfume was it has some different answers depending on who you ask. While the early pioneers started in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s I would say that niche perfume became defined in the 1990’s. I would further aver that one of the brands which did that was Comme des Garcons.

That started in 1994 when Comme des Garcons founder Rei Kawakubo had Christian Astuguevieille oversee the foundation of the fragrance section of the brand. From that moment M. Astuguevieille has developed what has become one of the most influential niche brands in the industry which continues to be influential today. One of the things that twenty-three years of perfume making offers is a chance for perspective. It is easier to know which perfumes within the collection have been those signposts.

Christian Astuguevieille

Why I am writing about this is Comme des Garcons is bringing back those early releases back to the market under the name of the Comme des Garcons Olfactory Library. As of June 19, 2017, you will be able to find ten releases of these seminal perfumes in the niche sector.

First and foremost, in the ten re-releases is the very first Comme des Garcons Eau de Cologne from 1994. Perfumer Mark Buxton would be one of the first to take a traditional fragrance architecture and turn it inside-out. What really blows me away is it still smells relevant today. This is no anachronism.

Three of the truly ground-breaking Series 6: Synthetic scents are part of this as Garage, Soda, and Tar make their return. When this was released, in 2004, it was marketed as “anti-perfume to the extreme”. What it asked was is there room in this new branch of artistic-minded perfumery for exploring real smells. All three of these are answers to that question.

The remaining six are two choices each from Series 1: Leaves, Series 2: Red, and Series 7: Sweet. Calamus from the Series 1: Leaves is one of perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour’s best green perfumes. He would return for Series 2: Red Sequoia with a booze-infused redwood forest; also included in this retrospective. Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer did both Tar and Soda but if you want to see one of the forerunners of the gourmand style of fragrance Series 7: Sweet Sticky Cake provides that.

I’m leaving out expanding on Series 2: Red Palisander and Series 1: Leaves Lily and Series 7: Sweet Nomad Tea each of which also defined Comme des Garcons in the years of 1994-2005. Throughout there is the sure hand of M. Astuguevieille guiding Comme des Garcons to remain one of the leaders in a sector it helped broaden..

The overall concept of the Olfactory Library is for Comme des Garcons to continue to bring back the past in consistent sets of releases going forward. There are some amazing perfumes in that history to be given the opportunity to be discovered by this generation of perfume lovers.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Cool Water Wave and He Wood Cologne

As I work my way through giving a try to everything which makes its way to me there are times some of the flankers command a little more attention than usual. When I think they’re really good I’ll do my usual wearing of them for their own review. When I think they might be above average and worth my mentioning I do one of these Flanker Round-Ups. As I was testing the summer releases for 2017 I was intrigued that two of the original mass-market brands turned out something more than the run of the mill. A caveat to this I only wore each of these on one arm for a weekend morning making these less informed reviews than I normally write.

Cool Water Wave

I think Cool Water is one of the great perfumes ever made. When Pierre Bourdon essentially created the aquatic genre of perfume in 1988 it truly was an inflection point for the industry. Davidoff has ever since used that phenomenon to create yearly flankers of Cool Water. Most of the time they don’t present much of anything different this year’s version Cool Water Wave does.

I smelled Cool Water Wave before knowing who the perfume team was behind it. My first impression was a modern take on the classic fougere M. Bourdon originally created. When I learned the perfumers behind it were Antoine Lie, Francis Kurkdjian, and Jean Jacques it was easy to see where that modernity came from.

Cool Water Wave begins with grapefruit and Sichuan pepper. The choice to allow the spicy pepper to point towards the sulfurous undertone of grapefruit is what first caught my attention. This is followed up with the rough green of birch leaves over the chill of gin-like juniper berry. These early phases are what is worth giving Cool Water Wave a try. It ends on a generic sandalwood which does nothing but act as an ending place.

Cool Water Wave has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

He Wood Cologne

In 2007, He Wood was released and immediately became a big seller. My explanation for the popularity of this perfume is when someone wanted a woody perfume you can’t go wrong with one which has the word in the name. Perfumer Daphne Bugey combined fir, cedar, and vetiver into something for the man who wanted wood and nothing else. I was not that man. Whenever I have subsequently received other releases over the years it was almost always described on my spreadsheet as,” wood and lots of it”. Nothing wrong with a fragrance that lacks nuance; there is obviously a market for it. Which was why when I tried He Wood Cologne in celebration of the 10th anniversary I expected to do the same.

Except the strip I sprayed it on had more than wood and lots of it. There was a citrus cologne top and the violet heart has some room to make an impression. The same thing happened when it was on my skin. Mme Bugey got the opportunity to find more than woods in He Wood Cologne.

The biggest change is a snappy citrus accord of lemon, orange, and ginger which immediately provided a cologne-like feel. The fir that the original opened with is still here but the citrus is on an equal footing and both are kept at a way softer volume than the original. That is what I think allows the violet to breathe some life into this as it makes an impression before the cedar and vetiver remind you what this perfume is the cologne version of.

He Wood Cologne has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you’ve walked away when seeing a new Cool Water of He Wood on the department store counter stop and give these a try on a strip. You might be surprised, too. Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Davidoff and He Wood.

Mark Behnke

The Story of Dasein Winter Nights- Sam Rader and Josh Meyer Light a Creative Bonfire

Being an independent perfumer is by design a solitary existence. Especially since each of the individuals behind your favorite brand must do it all. They are no less a perfume lover than any of us who spend time wearing their creations. There are some rare times when the community does find the time to get together. One date on the calendar since 2014 has been the annual The Art & Olfaction Awards. This past year for the third edition the founder of the awards, Saskia Wilson-Brown, also had a two-day curated event called the AIX Scent Fair at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Talking to those who were chosen to participate it was a fabulous opportunity to share their unique perspective on fragrance with a different audience. If it was just the camaraderie which was produced it would have been enough. Except I think it is improbable to believe a room full of creative minds wouldn’t find ways to collaborate. This is what happened when Sam Rader of Dasein and Josh Meyer of Imaginary Authors met there. Six months after the meeting the two of them have produced one of my favorite perfumes of the year Dasein Winter Nights. I was so interested in how their collaborative process led to Winter Nights that they graciously answered a bunch of questions I sent them via e-mail. It is a story of two imaginative fragrant minds working on a similar wavelength; amplifying each other’s strengths.

aix scent fair

AIX Scent Fair 2016

I started by asking if they had ever met prior to AIX, both had not. Which lead me into the follow-up about Ms. Wilson-Brown having AIX be this opportunity for collaboration. Ms. Rader exclaimed, “That is genius.  I never really thought about Saskia’s big picture plan…I always imagined it was a way to introduce independent perfumers to the public.  Saskia is a buddy of mine and of course that would be her agenda.  She is so good at witchy community building skills.” Mr. Meyer opined on the value of AIX to him as well, “You're very right, Saskia is able to curate a tone of creativity that's pretty unparalleled, and last year’s AIX fair was unlike anything I've ever been a part of, it was incredible how much fun and vibrancy there was with all the great lines and people involved.”

Sam+Rader+of+Dasein+Fragrance

Sam Rader

With that sense of community firmly in place Mr. Meyer was looking to meet others, “Mark, honestly, it may have been a Colognoisseur post or two that put me on to Sam's projects. We also share some outstanding stockists, Twisted Lily in Brooklyn, Beam & Anchor here in Portland, and a handful of others, I feel like it didn't take too long for me to start following along when Dasein started putting perfumes out there. I was super excited to meet Sam when I saw her setting up at AIX.” When Ms. Rader walked past Mr. Meyer she recounts him reaching out to her this way, “I had only heard of Imaginary Authors and had never smelled them until the AIX.  I was walking by Josh’s table and he called out to me—“Are you the chick from Dasein?  I love your stuff!  Let’s talk.”

Josh-Meyer

Josh Meyer

Talk they did as Ms. Rader describes the meeting, “We later made time to powwow and discovered we were both self-taught indie perfumers, both only interested in avant-garde unisex scents, also both serious foodies.  We rattled off our favorite LA and Portland restaurants (Jon & Vinny’s, Clyde Common) as I sniffed and fell in love with his line.  We vowed to stay in touch.” Mr Meyer also responded to the easy chemistry that was evolving, “We're both small business owners in a niche world that's pretty specific, so we had a lot in common immediately, we had a lot to chat about and simply just got along really well really quickly. I think the idea stemmed from my inserting that she should continue the Dasein line with new projects, and it wasn't long before a flood of  ideas were flowing between us just as an easy conversation.” 

That conversation would begin the process which would produce Winter Nights. It came together as they communicated after returning home. Ms. Rader talks about those early conversations, “Over several texts and phone calls Josh proposed the idea of a reimagining of each season so that I could expand my line while staying true to the initial concept.  He came up with the concept of WINTER NIGHTS, and we were both super jazzed.  As I went into the preparations for the new scent, Josh and I continued our virtual friendship and decided it would be really fun to create the scent as a collaboration.”

cali-winter-bonfire

Together they came up with the brief for Winter Nights. Mr. Meyer remembers the process this way, “I always felt like WINTER was the fragrance of a winter down in Southern California, I grew up down there in Hermosa beach as a little kid, and feel like the winter I experience up the coast, here where I’m at now, in Portland has a darker feel to it. So, as we chatted we came up with the idea of using a Northern California winter beach bonfire as the inspiration. Sort of a meeting spot between us… It was my idea to add a touch of smoke and resin to the project.”

As they moved into the actual composition part of the process they had to figure out a way to work while being separated geographically. Ms. Rader found their connection formed at AIX helped overcome any artificial barriers, “I have loved working with Josh because he has this infectious joie de vivre while also being totally strong and no nonsense.  There was a really great yin / yang balance of our energies in the process.  Mostly Josh came up with the ideas and did the initial sketches of things, and I would be receptive and fine tune the ratios to get the right cohesion.  We were like the band The Postal Service…we did all our blending via shipping each other formulas in the mail, and communicating via phone and email.  It was pretty easy to say yes to everything Josh sent me because he is a truly masterful nose.  We also seem to share an aesthetic vocabulary.  We always understood where the other was coming from, we agreed easily on where we wanted to get to, and had an almost effortless process of getting there.  I think this scent is by far the best of my collection, which I owe to Josh’s ingenuity and precision. I have never made a blend so fast and so painlessly.”

cadewood-essential-oil

I was curious if either of them thought there was a linchpin ingredient to Winter Nights. Mr. Meyer was more equivocal in his answer, “I wish I could say there was a single note or accord that makes it what it is, but I really feel it's different elements coming together to become more than the sum of the parts. The cade oil, the numerous pine elements, and resins… not to mention the underlying sweetness used in the first iteration that we used as a balancing point for the other notes really ties it together and makes it complete.” Ms. Rader was unequivocal in her answer, “Yes!  The cade oil.  Josh suggested it as the basis for our smoke accord.  It has a really beautiful authentic smell of woodsmoke.  So many other smoky oils and molecules have this sickening sweet hickory-ish smell that comes off like smoked meat.  Cade is a dark, rich, woody ashy fire smell.  And the best part is that cade oil is made from Juniper tree tar, and Juniper trees grow all along the coast of California.  So if we were making a bonfire in Big Sur there is a good chance we’d be using Juniper branches.  Pretty poetic, right?” I agree with Ms. Rader the cade oil feels like the keynote and even more so now that I know the story behind it.

After the success of Winter Nights I had to ask if there was a chance for more collaboration. Mr. Meyer replied, “I hope so! It is so much fun to work on fragrance creation, and working with others in a particularly solo creative environment is thrilling.” Ms. Rader is equally enthusiastic, “I would be delighted to work with Josh again.  I have no idea where the future of Dasein is headed, but I do have a feeling that Josh’s advice and input will have a great deal to do with the direction.  He’s become a fast friend and trusted advisor.  I am very lucky we met, thanks to Saskia and the AIX.” Based on what you both achieved with Winter Nights I would love to see more.

I want to thank both of these very busy people for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly. The behind-the-scenes story is as fascinating as the fragrance.

Mark Behnke

Editor's Note: Winter Nights is a limited edition of 400 bottles meant for the 2016 Holiday season.

The 2016 Tea Interval

In the test match which comprises a year in perfumery we’ve reached the Tea Interval. A time to sit back and consider all that has happened over the first half of the year. Also to think about what it means for the remaining six months.

millenials selfies

Millennials in the Driver’s Seat

2016 might go down as the pivot point when the Millennials finally take over the cultural zeitgeist from the Baby Boomers. In perfume there has been no more prevalent trend from the larger fragrance producers. Every major brand is trying to make the first perfume to be adopted by this generation. While it is clear to me that the companies were aware of the change coming it is also equally clear they are not sure what it is they desire in a fragrance.

The most common choice has been for what I would describe as a floral gourmand, mainly constructed around a sugared floral and a distinct gourmand note which is kept at an opaquer level. Examples include Dior Poison Girl, Thierry Mugler Angel Muse, and Derek Lam 10 Crosby 2AM Kiss.

I have spoken with many in the industry and they are very aware of this. The open question is who will make the breakthrough. Probably the most interesting mass market launch of the back half of 2016 is Chanel No. 5 L’Eau where the grand maison is expressly trying to make a version of the classic for the Millennials. As I sip my cuppa I can’t wait to see how this particular trend continues to evolve.

merger-acquisition

Acquisition is Still in Play

Estee Lauder has continued their insertion into the niche market by acquiring By Kilian in February. L’Oreal for fear of being left behind, perhaps, has joined the fray acquiring Atelier Cologne at the end of June. The niche market has been seen as a growth sector within fragrance which is why these large companies are cherry picking the top brands.

One other point is to be made before the moneychangers all begin to believe there is easy money in the perfumed temple. Every single one of these acquisitions over the past two or so years has been the result of brands which have created a distinct identity within this overcrowded market. As hard as it is to make a memorable perfume I believe it is even more difficult to create an indelible brand. I think it is a combination of perfume and brand which is driving these purchases.

rose barbie

The Roses of 2016

If there is any note I have smelled too much of so far this year it is rose. I have smelled so much of that fresh debutante rose I just want to take her out and muss her perfect hair up. One silver lining to a crush of insipid Barbie-style roses is the ones which aspire to more, stand out. So far this year that means Amouage Opus X, Maria Candida Gentile Rrose Selavy, and Annick Goutal Rose Pompon.

aix scent fair

Indie Perfumery is Thriving in 2016

There is so much to celebrate within the indie sector it is hard to pick a place to start. The diversity on display at the Art and Olfaction Awards and the connected AIX Scent Fair attached to it showed this off. If there is a place which embraces the water park of Xyrena Dark Ride and the glorious osmanthus of Auphorie Miyako it must be healthy.

The co-creation between Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni, Cadavre Exquis, has proved to be one of the more fascinating releases of the entire year.

Indie still needs a perfume to make the crossover to the mall for it to really explode. The latest to take up this challenge is Christi Meshell as her House of Matriarch fragrances are currently being sold in Nordstrom.

2013 best of pics106

The Odd is Becoming Commonplace

Usually there are just a few releases which stand out because they take a risk in using an unusual material or two. 2016 has shown creative directors in a particularly adventurous state of mind as they let the perfumers they work with use something different. The best examples come from two of the perfumes which I consider to be the best of 2016 so far.

Masque L’Attesa employs a champagne accord that is not about the bubbly finished product. Instead it is about the yeasty flat, slightly sour, fermenting wine. Perfumer Luca Maffei and creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi decided to use this accord as the foundation for iris to float upon.

Creative Director Victor Wong and perfumer Ellen Covey conspired to bring a dank cave full of flying rodents to life in Zoologist Bat. To make that more appealing than it sounds they worked hard to find a balance between realism and impression. Bat succeeds so well because it mixes the wet soil of geosmin with an animalic accord for the realistic part. Myrrh, sandalwood, and leather provide an impressionistic version of the bat.

My tea is finished. Time to return to the game for 2016. I hope the remaining innings are as good as the early ones have been.

Mark Behnke