New Perfume Review: Parfums de Marly Greenley- Developing Fresh

There needs to be brands who gently coax along a mainstream perfume consumer down the niche rabbit hole. One of the most effective ways to achieve that is to give that person something like what they find at the mall but made with more imagination. This has been what Parfums de Marly seemingly have been happy to do. Their latest, Parfums de Marly Greenley, takes fresh up a level, or two.

Julien Sprecher

It has been thirty years since the fresh trend of perfume began. The desire of the mainstream customer for this style has never waned. One thing I have learned over time is what the independent and niche perfume community offers is a variation on those trite styles. Creative director Julien Sprecher has always had a good sense of how to do this. In Greenley he produces a riff on the ubiquitous “freshie”.

Most of these fragrances lean hard on the same set of ingredients to produce fresh. For Greenley the choice is to find a new source of fresh. To achieve this they take a trip to the apple orchard.

As someone who smells my share of the mainstream fresh perfumes the opening of Greenley is a refreshing change. It opens with the crisp tartness of green apples given some support through a diffuse citrus. This is just the kind of change this brand excels at. They also seem to know that their customers also want woods with their fresh. Using two synthetics, Cashmeran and Amberwood, a warm long-lasting woody accord forms the second half of Greenley.

Greenley has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I like this because it doesn’t allow the woods to obliterate the fresh green apple accord. Because of that it is going to be a great choice as we begin to transition from winter to spring. Parfums de Marly adds to their repertoire this time by letting Greenley develop a better fresh.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ormonde Jayne Byzance- Chai Comfort

As we move into the days after New Year with the gray skies overhead, I begin to look for comfort from my perfumes. There are different types of scents that will do the trick but there is one ingredient which almost always does it, vanilla. I think there is a reason vanilla-centric fragrance are so popular because they tap into the smell of fresh pastries along with a sense of inherent warmth. I’ve found another to add to my dreary day collection, Ormonde Jayne Byzance.

Linda Pilkington

Linda Pilkington released a four-perfume collection called La Route de la Soie at the beginning of the summer. As the name implies all four are inspired by the trade route known as The Silk Road. Each creation is meant to capture a place along the trail connecting China to Europe through the Middle East. Ms. Pilkington does a nice job overseeing the collection. There is a coherent through line as if you are traveling as you move through each one. Damask is as you might expect that type of rose drenched in amber. Levant is a bright peony which will be ideal for spring. Tanger is the only other one which fully tries to integrate Eastern and Western aesthetics. In this case through neroli and vanilla. Byzance does it just a little bit better. The way Byzance does it is to create a gourmand accord of the East, chai tea, over a floral of the West, orris.

The beginning of that chai tea accord is where Byzance begins. A milk accord is given some texture through blackcurrant buds and vanilla. It moves it towards becoming the chai tea accord. That fully reveals itself over the next few minutes as a richly gourmand accord. As if it is arising out of the steam a gorgeously balanced orris butter appears. It has a shimmer of powder along with some of the carrot-y rootiness. It feels as if an elegant European has stopped for a chai tea. The duality of both flows together in a comforting way.

Byzance has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Byzance rode very close to my skin. Which is an advantage for a perfume I want to wear on the coldest days of the year. There is nothing better than being under a blanket from which I get little reminders of Byzance wafting up every time I adjust it. It is a comfort that comes from chai.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Jackson Year 4

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It was four years ago on January 2 when we adopted Jackson from a rescue organization. Ever since the first post of the year in this column has been about his last year. I’ve also realized this post is a little bit about my last year, too. Plus Jackson is probably the second most asked about subject in e-mails.

Jackson Pre-Quarantine and Pre-Pooch

At the beginning of the year Jackson was an only poodle. Henry passed away the previous November. Mrs. C is the word on if or when we adopt another dog. I knew Jackson was going to have company when she started looking online to see what was available. By the end of February she had found a seven-year-old black poodle, Pooch, who’s owner was unable to take care of him anymore. We went and got him the first week of March just before everything shut down, including Poodlesville.

Just like most everyone else Jackson has spent the year in quarantine with us. Mrs. C and I made the decision early on to minimize contact with the outside world. Which meant that my two-year long process of acclimating him to the world outside the yard was also paused. Jackson was left entirely alone in the year before we got him. Which means he is very cautious at any new experience. Except other dogs.

Jackson (r.) providing Pooch with a resting place

When we brought Pooch home the two of them spent an hour in the back yard. I held an imaginary conversation in my head as Jackson gave him all the 411 on Poodlesville. One funny thing that happened is in our big back yard we have a stand of trees and shrubs we call “the island”. Every dog we have had has run around it without going into it. Pooch dove right in that first hour, bursting out the other side. Jackson stood there as if he had discovered a new thing. Which of course he had. When I look out in the backyard these days and can’t see them. I am likely to see two black dogs leap out of the island in a breakneck run to the porch.

Both dogs but especially Jackson have become my surrogate for human contact. I am pretty sure I have hugged him more this year than the previous three combined. He also has an ability to make us laugh which has been invaluable.

It looks like it will be a few months before Jackson and I can get back out beyond the confines of our yard. For now we walk the perimeter every day. Pooch has also taught Jackson to nip at the back of my heel to encourage me to play. This is the first set of poodles that have coordinated their play. I am often throwing a toy while the other one is bringing back “his” toy that I threw before. It has been funny to see both dogs choose to collaborate like this. My throwing shoulder is getting stronger as a result.

Like I said this is about Jackson but it is also a little about everyone else in Poodlesville. We are all looking forward to the day, soon, when we can be back out in the world.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Van Cleef & Arpels First- Playing Telephone

One of the difficulties of writing this column is deciding when a perfume from the past has been reformulated in a way that it is worth pointing out. If I think the original is awesome but it is because of banned materials like oakmoss and nitro musks, it causes a problem. Then when I try the currently available version I must see if it retains enough of the character to write about it as it exists today. One of the things which happens infrequently is the current version surpasses the original as has happened in Van Cleef & Arpels First.

I own an original bottle of First because it is one of perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena’s first. Released in 1976 it is a typical big floral. It is fun to smell something like this and think how M. Ellena will become famous for the antithesis of it. Lots of “to be banned” materials abound. It is exactly what a mid-1970’s floral perfume smelled like.

I was digging in the discount bins a year ago around the Holidays when this nice green chypre hit me from someone spraying it nearby. I went searching to see what it was. I probably picked up everything on the tester shelf but First because I thought I knew what it would smell like. When I finally figured out it was First, I was floored. Mainly because I liked this better.

I’ve spent the last year trying to find out who was responsible for this version. It is a thankless job that no one at the big brands will admit goes on. Tracking down the perfumer was going to take more effort than I was willing to exert.

One of the things I did do was track down some of the iterations that have been released between 1976 and now. What I found was a perfume version of the party game telephone. The way it is played is the first person is given a phrase which they whisper one time only into the ear of the person next to them. This repeats until it gets back to the person who started it. What generally happens is it has been changed in a funny non-intelligible way. Rarely it ends up with a new phrase which is related to the first one.

That is what happened with First. In a 1990-ish bottle the base has begun to be changed as the musks seem to have been changed. In an early Y2K version the floral heart has gone much greener as the overall early moments have dialed back the rose and jasmine power. Then we arrive at what you can buy now.

The current version starts off with some mandarin on top of a green accord of blackcurrant bud, narcissus, and muguet. Hair spray-like aldehydes add some sparkle. The rose and jasmine are still here but they are using one of the more expansive synthetic jasmines. It allows for more space for the narcissus and muguet to expand into. They become the primary counterpoint to the rose. It moves to a modern chypre base where sandalwood, amber, clove, and some synthetic musks form it. It fits ideally with what is here now.

All of this refers to the Eau de Parfum version. The current version has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think this game of “perfume telephone” has ended up in a better fragrance at the end of the chain. It can be found for less than $25/bottle at many discounters. If you remember the old First give the new one a try you might be surprised, too.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mark Buxton Why Not a Cologne- Because It Can Do More

When I first started finding out who the perfumers were behind my favorite perfumes, I was surprised to find I had a type. Some of my earliest favorites were from Comme des Garcons. I would determine the perfumer behind most of those was Mark Buxton. For over twenty years he has remained as one of those I look to for something different. In Mark Buxton Why Not a Cologne he asks a question for which he has a surprising answer.

The last ten years or so have seen a golden age for the cologne type of fragrance. No longer the derided stepchild it has been given new verve through smart artists reimagining the form. With that said the recipe has remained the same from the original Johann Maria Farina triad of citrus-floral-herbal. Modern purveyors have altered some of the pieces using modern ingredients but have mostly kept to a streamlined architecture. The question Mr. Buxton is asking here is “why can’t a cologne do more?”

Mark Buxton

This is part of a new four fragrance collection by Mr. Buxton and David Chieze called The Freedom Collection. The other three are inspired by the Queen hit broken down into three fragrances I Want, To Break, and Free. Why Not a Cologne decides to call its own tune.

It is still a cologne of three distinct phases of fruit, floral, and woods. This is not a simple recipe it is complex accords which progress like a cologne. Mr. Buxton’s to make something as fulsome seem like it belongs to a more facile genre is what makes this so interesting.

The fruit top accord is made up of red apple, mandarin, and pineapple. Mr. Buxton asks why does it need to be only one fruit? Especially when three can do better. The apple adds a crispness to the accord while the mandarin adds citrus tart and the pineapple sugary sweetness. Any one would have been fine but balanced into a single accord it is better. The floral heart follows the same plan with rose, magnolia, jasmine, and neroli. The magnolia is the lead singer, but it is the harmonies of the other florals which make it more. This is a floral accord which forms a single accord which improves the whole. For the base, a leathery chypre-like accord awaits. Vetiver, ambergris, castoreum, cedar, and leather. This is more intense than a typical cologne finish, but it is just like what has come before in this perfume. It is a complete accord which shows a fuller scent profile than is usual in a cologne.

Why Not a Cologne has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Buxton continues to ask intriguing questions of what fragrance can be. His answer to why not a cologne is “because it can do more”.

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

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2021 Hopes and Wishes

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Ever since I started Colognoisseur I spend the last day of the year looking forward to the next year with some hopes and wishes.

This is what I’m talking about (DSH and Me pre-pandemic)

It is impossible not to start with the effect of the pandemic. The biggest thing I hope for next year is to see all my friends in fragrance in person…..and hug them! I am by nature a hugger, but I have also realized how much it is a part of my own well-being. That connection can’t be replaced by all the tech in the world. So beware once we can be together again there is a hug with your name on it.

Except I want to hatch perfume brands not chickens

Last year I wished for an American counterpart to the large European perfume expos. In a year where we had none, I’ve realized what important events they are for emerging brands and buyers. There should be a way to provide a similar experience in lieu of just the big trade shows. I am hoping there is some kind of incubator strategy which can help out that appears next year.

Except with perfume instead of guitars

Going into the New Year I am very excited about two powerhouse collaborations coming. The Masque Milano maestros Brun and Tedeschi are working with Mackenzie Reilly. While Victor Wong and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz are teaming up for Zoologist Snowy Owl. This is my version of an all-star perfume jam times two. You would think that is enough, but I have a couple of other dream teams I’d like to see. I would love to see Christophe Laudamiel take some of the incredible oils from one of the small-batch distillers and see what he would make of that. I would also love to see new Amouage creative director Renaud Salmon and perfumer Cecile Zarokian go for it with a gourmand that sets a new standard. Yes I am a greedy guy.

We need these to return next year

Finally because of the pandemic the Art & Olfaction Awards are taking this year off. Being a judge over the last few years has been one of my favorite parts of being involved in the fragrance community. I hope, and expect, they return for 2021. The awards provided a much-needed spotlight on the independent artistic perfume community. I hope that light will shine again next year.

As always, my final words of 2020 are thanks to all of you who choose to read my words about fragrance. It has never been more gratifying than in this crazy year. Happy New Year!

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2020 Part 3: The Top 25 New Perfumes of 2020 and One Extra Award

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To keep this list in perspective, I tried 634 new perfumes since January 1, 2020. That is about a third of all new releases. Nobody can try them all. I enjoy the winnowing down to produce this list. I usually make the hard decisions on which perfumes make the Top 25 without resorting to ties or other ways of expanding the list. Except 2020 presented me with a dilemma like no other. After struggling with how to resolve it I just thought I’d come up with a fun way of recognizing the problem. The list is going to start off with a new one-time only award.

Yaas Queen!

Perfume Queen of 2020: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes– The pandemic affected the industry in such variable ways. In Ms. Hurwitz’s case it was the catalyst to a year of remarkable creativity. She released 32 new perfumes this year. I reviewed eight and I’m only hitting 25% just on her. She has always been prolific, but this year there was an extra inspiration in her collection. In my case she connected with me on an emotional level more consistently than anyone ever has. Read my reviews of Tea and Charcoal, Adrenaline and Scorched Earth, or Couverture d’Hiver to find examples. Her years of experience also translate into a familiarity with certain materials like iris. She released an Iris Trilogy of which I reviewed L’Or(ris) and Man Root. I never got around to writing about her Frida Kahlo inspired set or any of her Heirloom Elixirs. Each of them was worthy of it but it would have turned this blog into “DSH-onoisseur”. So consider this a cheat as you won’t find these perfumes in the list below, but they surely do belong. For 2020 DSH has her own category.

The Top 10 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)

10. Amouage Meander– Young perfumer Mackenzie Reilly showed she could be one of the new noses for the new Amouage under creative director Renaud Salmon.

9. Frassai El Descanso– Creative director Natalia Outeda releases a series of perfumes of her native Argentina. This fragrance of wide-open wheat fields is like nothing else this year.

8. Puredistance Rubikona- Creative director Jan Ewoud Vos wanted a perfume expression of red. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian made one with a faux-gourmand accord in the base which was amazing.

7. Hiram Green VivaciousHiram Green has added violet to his impressive collection of all-natural florals. Another standout from a line replete with them.

6. Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque MadeleineAlessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi asked perfumer Fanny Bal to create their favorite Paris tearoom as a perfume. She returned a confection with a tuberose center.

5. Rasei Fort Cielito LindoRasei Fort laid down an audacious marker to the best gourmand of 2020 early on. Nobody risked more within the genre. Nobody reaped the rewards of taking those chances more.

4. Aftelier Violet AmbrosiaMandy Aftel adds violet to an aged version of broom flower. The result is like nothing I’ve tried featuring this floral.

3. April Aromatics Lotus RisingTanja Bochnig also broke out her special materials with two sources of aged lotus. It formed the lushest floral of the year.

2. A Lab on Fire Freckled and Beautiful– I’ve been waiting for the first great transparent floral gourmand. Perfumer David Apel has set the standard for the future.

  1. Shalini Iris LumiereThe longer explanation can be found in Part 2. The simple one is it is the best iris perfume of a year which had a lot of excellent ones.

The Rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order

Abel Cyan Nori– Perfumer Isaac Sinclair wraps soft musk in a sheet of nori.

Berceuse Allegretto 7.2Antonio Gardoni finds the rhythm.

Cartier Pur KinkanMathilde Laurent makes a fragile citrus bubble which is compelling because of it.

Estee Lauder Beautiful AbsoluMackenzie Reilly boldly edits the original Beautiful into a modern version.

Gallivant BukharaRalf Schwieger puts iris under his magnifying glass.

Imaginary Authors A Whiff of WaffleconeJosh Meyer makes a high-quality salted caramel ice cream treat.

Jazmin Sarai FayoumDana El Masri made one of the most unique accords of the year as she takes you into a pottery shop at the oasis.

L’Artisan Couleur Vanille– The first salt air and vanilla release of the year.

Maher Olfactive Tempo Rubato– Shawn Maher shows off his near limitless potential in a perfume of changes built around iris.

Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Rouge– One of two releases for Dave Kern’s American Perfumer store. Maria McElroy returns to the desert and her childhood memories of pastry.

Nishane Nanshe– Perfumer Cecile Zarokian puts on a masterclass on how to construct a powdery accord.

Roberto Greco Porter sa Peau– Not for the faint of heart. I didn’t know I wanted a perfume which captured the post-coital milieu. Rodrigo Flores-Roux gave it to me.

Shawn Maher for American Perfumer Madame ChouteauShawn Maher told a glorious story of his hometown history in bold perfumed calligraphy strokes.

Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 Isra & Miraj– This is a perfume that should be a train wreck. Stephane Humbert Lucas gave me a spiritual experience instead.

Zoologist Musk Deer– Everyone wanted a skanky musk. Victor Wong and Pascal Gaurin throw a cleverly evolving soft pillowy musk in its place. They made the right choice.

The Rest of the 2020 Short List

4160 Tuesdays Dark QueenSarah McCartney gloriously colors outside her boundaries.

A Lab on Fire A Blvd. Called Sunset– A dry leather on a Santa Ana wind.

Aether Arts Perfume Dia de Muertos– Tropical trick or treating.

Beaufort Terror and Magnificence– An old church full of smoke and history.

Bogue Douleur!2– I hated it. I admire it to death.

Maher Olfactive TreacheryShawn Maher goes really big.

Courreges 2060 Cedar PulpFanny Bal’s 21st century cologne.

DS & Durga Jazmin Yucatan– A night with the Aztecs

Etat Libre D’Orange Exit the King– Soapy and uniquely so.

Ignacio Figueras Palm Beach– An afternoon watching the polo ponies

Laboratorio Olfattivo Mandarino– A joyful interpretation of mandarin.

Lazarus Douvos Rose 1845– The most interesting rose of the year.

Maher Olfactive Orris Forest– Stepping stones to iris.

Maison D’Etto Macanudo– The exhilaration of being on horseback

Maison Sybarite 720– The best of a new brand.

Maison Tahite Sel_Vanille– Another new brand working on a salt air and vanilla construct.

Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Dolceaqua– Another intelligent transparent floral gourmand

Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Petra– This is the first Masque gourmand perfume.

Masque Milano Ray-flection– Mimosa puffballs on a river of honey.

Monique Lhuiller– Best mainstream floral of 2020

NEZ Hong Kong Oolong A history lesson told through tea.

NEZ Folia– The smell of wet cardboard isn’t supposed to be appealing.

Olfactive Pharmacy BetulaMark Buxton’s interpretation of birch is fabulous.

Olfactive Studio Iris Shot– The best of the three Sepia Collection releases this year.

Zoologist Koala– Hanging out in an Australian treetop munching eucalyptus leaves.

That’s a wrap for 2020.

You can find my overview of the year here.

You can find who I named Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.

Thanks to everyone involved in allowing me to keep writing this entire year.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2020 Part 2: Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

After yesterday’s broad overview, in Part 2 I get very specific naming the best of the year in four categories.

Perfume of the Year: Shalini Iris Lumiere One of the joys of writing about perfume for over a decade is I’ve been able to watch brands develop. My favorite is when a creative director and long-time collaborator find that magic moment when all their hard work produces a transcendent perfume. Shalini has been making fragrance since 2004. In 2020 it made my Perfume of the Year, Shalini Iris Lumiere.

Iris Lumiere is the fifth perfume from fashion designer Shalini and master perfumer Maurice Roucel. I have enjoyed the other four releases a lot. Iris Lumiere took a quantum leap over those. It achieved that by showing me a different version of iris. As mentioned yesterday I write a lot about the powdery or rooty nature of the ingredient. Iris Lumiere showed me something I had never experienced before, an intensely greener version.

It has always been one of M. Roucel’s strengths to find new ways to showcase well-known ingredients. His choice to use galbanum and muguet as green interrogators of orris formed something captivating. It was if a fresh green rhizome had been harvested with moisture dripping off it. Months away from being the dried version we are familiar with. By using the overdose of galbanum it creates a sparkling set of jeweled facets among the irises. The final piece is to shine silvery moonlight on it using frankincense.
M. Roucel has been making perfume for decades this is among his best perfumes ever and not just the Perfume of the Year for 2020.

Perfumer of the Year: Maurice Roucel– It was clear to me heading into the fall that my Perfumer of the Year was going to have the initials MR. Throughout the year it seemed like Maurice Roucel and Mackenzie Reilly kept having a competition in my head. They both worked creatively across every sector. What tipped the balance is M. Roucel did make my Perfume of the Year.

Besides that he also did an artistic composition in NEZ Hong Kong Oolong. Monique Lhuiller was an entirely different version of the mainstream fresh floral.  A Lab on Fire A Blvd. Called Sunset is a fabulous dry leather via California car culture.

I could’ve written a similar resume for Ms. Reilly as her year was also impressive. They say you are judged by who it is you competed against. M. Roucel was pushed all year by one of the most impressive new perfumers we have. In 2020 it was the old master who is the Perfumer of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Fanny Bal, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Josh Meyer, Mackenzie Reilly, and Cecile Zarokian.

Creative Director of the Year: Victor Wong, Zoologist Perfumes– There is no better story in independent perfumery than that of Victor Wong and his Zoologist Perfumes brand. 2019 was an extraordinary year for Mr. Wong including Squid being named the Fragrance Foundation Perfume Extraordinaire at this year’s awards. He entered 2020 with a dilemma. He chose to re-invent one of the flagship perfumes of the brand with a new perfumer. The 2020 version of Bat shows why I hold Mr. Wong in such high esteem. Working with perfumer Prin Lomros they created a different species of bat as the environment was shifted from cave to jungle. It was every bit as enjoyable. He would follow-up with three new releases Sloth, Koala, and Musk Deer. The latter is an expectation shattering take on musk. It is that ability to take chances that makes Mr. Wong my Creative Director of the Year for 2020.

Runner-Ups: Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano, Carlos Kusubayashi of A Lab on Fire, Natalia Outeda of Frassai, Renaud Salmon of Amouage, and Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio.

Brand of the Year: Masque MilanoAlessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are always looking for ways to evolve their successful enterprise. In 2020 this involved creating a new collection called Le Donne di Masque. They re-invented the first two releases of Petra and Dolceaqua before adding Madeleine at the end of the year. This provides a new way of looking at Masque Milano. Just to make sure we didn’t forget the old way Ray-Flection joined the Opera collection. This was another fantastic year for one of the premier brands in artistic perfumery which is why they are Brand of the Year for 2020.

Runner-Ups: Amouage, DSH Perfumes, Frassai, Imaginary Authors, and Zoologist.

My broad overview of 2020 can be found in Part 1 here.

The Top 25 perfumes of 2020 will come tomorrow.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2020 Part 1: Overview

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That 2020 has been an unusual year would be an understatement. None of the fragrance expos. No trips to NYC for perfume events. Instead it turned out to be a different kind of exploration. I’ve been hovering around 650-700 new perfumes tried every year since I started Colognoisseur nearly seven years ago. If you asked me in May if I would be close to that I would’ve been skeptical. Yet when I look at the last line on my 2020 spreadsheet the number reads 634.

One of the reasons it is close to a normal year is I reached out to some new lines for samples. Over the course of the year I was able to delve into new independent perfumers; Jorum Studios, Libertine, Baruti, Christele Jacquemin, and Chronotope. It was a great experience which allowed me to see developing aesthetics in one piece. It was brands like these which provided that fun of finding something new which usually comes from Esxence or Pitti.

One of the trends that seemed to expand dramatically was that of reviewers becoming creative directors of their own perfumes. Most of these were as cynical as the mainstream releases using focus groups to design their fragrances. They just tried to decide what their readers/subscribers liked best based on measured response and made something to reflect that. That’s just a focus group in a different costume. There is a fantastic template for anyone serious about doing this. Just look at Victor Wong of Zoologist. He has gone from Facebook to the Fragrance Foundation Perfume Extraordinaire Award this year. He makes perfumes he likes while trusting there is an audience. So far, he has been right.

Renaud Salmon of Amouage

Amouage went through a big change as new creative director Renaud Salmon took charge. Over the course of the last half of the year M. Salmon reassured me that this important brand is going to do well as it moves in a different direction. I believe it will continue to be one of the key creative brands in perfumery.

This was also a year for some truly odd accords for perfumes to be built upon. One which repeated over and over was the scent of horse. Maison D’Etto’s entire collection is based on horses from creative director Brianna Lipovsky’s life. Ignacio Figueras Palm Beach and Sarah Baker Bascule also brought some thoroughbreds to the party.

Wet cardboard was the centerpiece of Nez 1+1 Folia. Clay pottery formed the nucleus of Jazmin Sarai Fayoum. Freddie Albrighton and Antonio Gardoni challenged me with one of the most difficult fragrances of the year in Douleur!2. It walks right on the edge of unpleasant, which was its intent.

The gourmand style of perfume continues to evolve as 2020 was bookended by Rasei Fort Cielito Lindo and Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Madeleine. Both finding a new level for the genre.

If there was one thing I realized as I was looking back over the year I must have written a riff on the following a lot this year. “The dual nature of iris as both powdery and rooty was on display”. 2020 is the year of iris. It is also the year of great iris perfumes as you will see as I unveil the list of the best of the year.

I also want to close this overview with a thanks to everyone on the perfume side who assisted me in getting perfume sent to me. I may not have left the house, but the world of perfume showed up on my doorstep daily.

My other thanks are to the readers of this blog. In this ridiculous year of uncertainty writing for you every day was one of the few bits of normalcy which remained for me. I cherish that you choose to share my passion for perfume by dropping by.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my picks for Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director and Brand of the Year. That will be followed by my Top 25 new perfumes of 2020.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: My Favorite Non-Perfume Things of 2020

I’ll be spending the next week going into all the good smelling reasons 2020 didn’t entirely stink. But for the readers of this column I also like doing a list of my favorite non-perfume things of the year. This year the list is heavy on that which helped me deal with my quarantine more enjoyably.

Favorite Book: Long Bright River by Liz Moore– I read a lot this year but this was the first new book I finished in 2020. It still resonates with me emotionally. The story of two sisters whose paths have diverged and the Philadelphia neighborhood they grew up in is amazing. It isn’t an easy read, but it is an honest one with a mystery which drives the narrative.

Favorite Comic Book: Swords of X– I used to spend too many summers tied up in a months-long story across all the X-Men titles thirty years ago. I didn’t realize how much I missed that until Jonathan Hickman followed up his reboot of the franchise last year with Swords of X. An old-fashioned throw down as the mutants must battle for the fate of the earth with their own special swords. Great escapist fun.

Favorite Album: Women in Music Part III by Haim– The sisters gave me an album I’ve listened to a lot. They are continually evolving their sound and subject. This album seemed more personal than the previous ones. That’s from a band that didn’t shy away from that in the past. Here it felt like we reached the soul of the matter.

Favorite Single: Rain on Me by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande– When I needed to dance it out this year it was this track I queued up. When pop divas are confident enough to give each other the room to do what they do best you get a single like this.

Co-Favorite TV Show of the Year: The Queen’s Gambit– I didn’t sit in a movie theatre this entire year. What it meant was the streaming networks gave me the main source of my visual entertainment. The Queen’s Gambit followed the trend of unlikeable protagonists who seek redemption. Actor Anya Taylor-Joy sells the story of a chess prodigy’s climb up the ladder in the 1960’s. This has incredible acting, authentic chess, and the best fashion of any show on television.

Co-Favorite TV Show of the Year: The Mandalorian– I already wrote about what a perfect piece of Star Wars the first season was. Inexplicably Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni oversaw an even more meaningful and better second season. Each episode fed into the next one with no slow teases or slow fuses to what we knew had to happen. They knew a better story was to be had when you just go to the punchlines quickly. This series is becoming the hub which unites every Star Wars fan across generations. I can’t overstate what a gift that is.

I’m going to touch on this when I get down to the perfume things of 2020. This blog and the readers of it also kept me going this year. Especially the small group of readers I think only visit to read this specific column. I just like to write about the things I enjoy. That there is an audience who also enjoys it makes it satisfying. Thank you for reading.

Mark Behnke