How To Trust Your Perfume Reviewer

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I feel fortunate that I have been writing about perfume long enough that I don’t think my motives are suspect to others. I have been concerned about some of the tough criticism that many of the young video reviewers have been receiving lately. There seem to be some common themes which recur. Many of them boil down to, “How can I trust this person?” I’d like to address the biggest thing people seem to be annoyed/worried about. Hopefully it will help.

That issue is the receipt of free perfume. If you work hard at giving yourself a presence eventually you will form a relationship with perfume brands. There is a difference between an independent perfumer who is working for themselves versus the large beauty companies. One is by nature more personal while the other is just publicity. With an independent brand you can find the fragrance creators out in the community. With the large brands you must keep knocking on the door until they let you in. It means that most of the reviewers in their early days spend their own money on the large brands while they might receive a free sample from an independent brand because they can make a more personal introduction. The biggest drive of commenting on perfume is content, having enough to make a video or blog post on. The more you do it the more you will start seeing brands reach out to you. This leads to the most important thing you must do; reveal the source of the perfume you are reviewing.

I believe this simple effort is the most important piece of building trust between reviewer and audience. Each person will decide on the style of their content. The fantastic thing is there is a reviewer out there who closely reflects a viewer’s perspective on perfume. I’ve seen a lot of people comment, “the reviewer got it for free they are just a shill.” I can see why that kind of comment makes people shy away from mentioning where the perfume they are talking about came from. It shouldn’t. First rule of doing anything; you can’t please everyone. Second rule; you shouldn’t tie yourself up in knots trying to.

The best reviewers come to it from a deep love of fragrance. That quality is obvious the more time you do it. Once you believe that, it shouldn’t matter where the perfume came from. As long as you share the source with them. That piece of information allows the audience to make up their own mind about whether you are influenced by something given to you for free. If you are genuine the audience will respond by sticking around. It takes a lot of hard work. Nobody builds an audience overnight.

Everyone who makes that first step should know it will get better the more you do it. If you feel like you have something to say about perfume you will be happy to find there are others out there who want to hear you. To build the trust you will need; be passionate, be honest, and have fun. If the reviewer you are watching is doing that. I think you can trust them.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bruno Fazzolari Corpse Reviver- Bride of Franken-gourmand

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Three and a half years ago two of my favorite independent perfumers, Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni, collaborated on a wild gourmand perfume called Cadavre Exquis. Through a fascinating creative process these two made a unique take on a gourmand perfume. When I reviewed it back then there was a sense that it was a monster of that style. I dubbed it Franken-gourmand. Mr. Fazzolari has decided to return to that earlier work while providing a new update to it on his own. We now have Bride of Franken-gourmand or as it should be called Bruno Fazzolari Corpse Reviver.

Bruno Fazzolari

Mr. Fazzolari has some new ideas to go with the previous ones. The one I am happy he retained is the use of camphor as a keynote. It was the brilliant heart of the previous perfume. In Corpse Reviver Mr. Fazzolari keeps the best of what came before while adding one excellent new ingredient; a whisky accord. If you look up the name on the interwebs you will be pointed to a “hair of the dog” hangover cocktail. It was such an anecdotal “cure” that there are multiple variations. To my surprise I could not find a whisky-based one. Which means the perfume becomes the first one of those. By adding in the boozy accord it changes everything while also reminding you of what came before.

Elsa Lanchester as The Bride of Frankenstein

The camphor is present right away, again. It is such an interesting way to start a perfume. It is contrasted with a similar array of citrus, herbs, and tagetes. At this point it made me feel we were back in the same gourmand laboratory as before. It all changes in the heart. The camphor is not as strong this time around which means the chocolate overwrites it a little more as it oozes into sight. What revives it is that whisky accord. Mr. Fazzolari constructs it from an oakwood absolute. This takes the chocolate in a woody direction. As the two ingredients mingle a slightly burnt caramel emerges where they overlap. As that happens the camphor returns as part of this sticky matrix. This is a dynamic powerful uber-accord. There was a set of dried fruits and civet which gave the sense of decay. That accord has been much more refined here. It is only fitting that you must get closer to The Bride before the sense of rot is noticeable.

Corpse Reviver has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I’ve tried both perfumes side-by-side and I prefer Corpse Reviver. There was a fantastic collaborative verve to the previous Franken-gourmand. With a little more experience Doctor Fazzolari has brought a more complete perfume to life.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Linari Drago Nero- Vetiver Chameleon

Heading into 2020 it seems like vetiver is having a moment; again. It waxes and wanes in popularity due to how ubiquitous it becomes. I’ve never tired of good vetiver fragrances because a good perfumer has many tools to make it feel different. Mark Buxton is a good perfumer which means Linari Drago Nero should be a good vetiver perfume.

Rainer Diersche

Linari is one of those underappreciated perfume brands. Creative director Rainer Diersche releases on an infrequent schedule which might be a reason it isn’t mentioned more. I have usually found the time between new fragrances has proven to lead to better results. For Drago Nero he again collaborates with Mr. Buxton. They have been working together on the last four Linari releases since 2012.

Mark Buxton

For this black dragon they chose to use two sources of vetiver. A cleaner grassier Haitian version and a smoky one from Java. They tend to provide the foundation between the early moments of Drago Nero and the latter stages.

When I saw the ingredient list, I saw pineapple listed which made me groan a little bit. Mr. Buxton instead uses a tart green apple to provide a crisp green fruit to complement the similarly clean green of the Haitian vetiver. There is also a citrus-like undercurrent in this vetiver. With mandarin that quality is given a bit more prominence especially in the earliest moments. A rich orange blossom provides the bridge between the two vetivers. The floral sweetness captures that citrus thread in the Haitian vetiver. The slight indolic core of the orange blossom grabs those tendrils of smoke rising from the Java vetiver. As Drago Nero resets itself a strong amber and woody mix shows the eventual destination. Sandalwood and Guaiac wood provide the woody part. Ambrarome gives a drier amber effect over the final phase.

Drago Nero has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Drago Nero is a different vetiver perfume for the shift which happens around the orange blossom. I liked the tonal change as it made me feel like I was wearing a different perfume than what I had put on in the morning. That made it more a shape-shifting vetiver chameleon than a roaring black dragon. If you are looking for a new vetiver for the spring Drago Nero is a good choice.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Jackson Year 3

I would like to believe that my readership has grown over the nearly six years I’ve been writing Colognoisseur because of my way of communicating about perfume. That is true for many of you. One thing I am sure there are a lot of readers who visit because of Jackson.

Jackson is our standard poodle we adopted three years ago on January 2. I’ve given a yearly update on him and it has become one of the most read things on the site. Along with the number of people I get communication from who ask about him along with perfume. Jackson is definitely one of the most popular things here. Time to give you the update for year three.

The biggest change in his life was the loss of his older poodle pack mate Henry in November. For most of the time Jackson has been with us it has been Henry who passed along the rules of Poodlesville. He taught him to bark at the twilight deer who walk through our front yard. He also showed him that all squirrels belonged in the trees in our fenced back yard. He also showed him how to butt his head under an arm for attention. Jackson has gotten very good at that one.

Mrs. C has been very wise in how we deal with the passing of a poodle in our house. We have always taken the survivor with us to the vet on the day. After the vet had administered the shots and Henry was gone, we let Jackson walk over to him. It allowed Jackson to register, however dogs do that, Henry was gone. It kept Jackson from looking for Henry. I wish it would’ve kept me from looking for Henry in all his familiar places right after.

It has been interesting watching Jackson get used to be an only poodle. When there was another dog Jackson would scarf up his food immediately. Now eating is a leisurely all-day affair. When Henry was here the order on our sofa was Henry, Jackson, Me, and Mrs. C. Now it has changed to Me, Jackson, and Mrs. C. It seems like he is doing okay without a wingman.

The other ongoing project is getting him to be less scared of the world outside of Poodlesville. That is accomplished by my taking him for walks where he runs right into the new sensations in his world. He still perceives anything new as a threat running to put me in between him and the new scary thing.

What has been very gratifying to see is his interaction with a family I play Pokemon Go with. They have a young daughter who has become the only other human being Jackson willingly goes to. Whenever Jackson sees her his tail wags while he cranes his head forward for the ear scratching she gives him. He likes her Mom and Dad, too. He doesn’t shy away from them if we run into them without their daughter. This is tremendous progress for a poodle who viewed every other person as something to be frightened of. When he slowly wags his tail while getting scratched by his little girl, I smile all over.

For all of you who have asked; Jackson is doing very well. He might not have another poodle to snuggle with, but I feel he knows he has a lot of fans out there. Thanks to all of you who care about him, too.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Jovoy Psychedelique- Sea of Brown Paisley

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I’ll admit that the line-up for future Under the Radar columns comes from my standing in front of the shelf of perfumes I am currently wearing. As I look over that shelf, I think that one needs some exposure. January has always been a month where I break out my patchouli heavy hitters. I don’t know what it is, but I have come to like my patchouli-focused scents coming out of the Holidays. I think part of it is as a tonic to the deluge of spring rose perfumes that will be arriving soon. Many perfume lovers look to avoid some of the deeper shades of patchouli. I understand that. The beauty of modern perfumery is perfumers have such an expanded palette of patchouli-based materials there is a patchouli out there for most tastes. Right now I just want a patchouli perfume unafraid to lay it all out there. To draw me into its depths. That perfume is Jovoy Psychedelique.

Francois Henin

Currently the name of Jovoy and its founder Francois Henin are well-known among those who look for contemporary perfume. M. Henin has been one of the most committed promoters of the independent perfume movement. Opening stores in Paris to display the best of this sector of fragrance. To play it safe he decided he needed his own brand to make sure he had one he knew he could count on. Jovoy was founded in 2011 with an initial collection of six, five of which are still in production today.  I own three of them. Private Label was my first introduction to perfumer Cecile Zarokian. Amber Premier is one of the warmest ambers I own. Psychedelique is the one I spend the most time with; my eyes closed breathing in with a smile.

Jacques Flori

Psychedelique was composed by perfumer Jacques Flori. M. Flori uses a rich source of patchouli as the center of his fragrance. It can make it seem like Psychedelique is a brown paisley pattern where the supporting ingredients lighten or deepen the patchouli in the middle of it all. It is that sense of motion which makes Psychedelique stand apart.

Patchouli has two main aspects to its scent profile; a deep earthiness and a chocolate-like one. M. Flori shifts between the two as the perfume develops. At first it is that earthy quality, but it is kept at a slightly lighter level. A lovely flare of citrus provides points of light amidst the brown. The citrus turns to a dried fruit accord while the patchouli exerts its chocolate nature. This is the part of patchouli that doesn’t get used as much lately. I feel as if I’m sliding across a giant fondant. The earthiness returns for the base. This time it carries the slightly mentholated nature patchouli can show at higher concentrations. Amber and vanilla come to dry things out over the final stages.

Psychedelique has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

There will be a night, sometime soon, where after I’ve taken care of the Colognoiseur tasks for the day I will spray on some Psychedelique for the rest of the day and to sleep in. I’ll have dreams of being on a sea of brown paisley. If you want to join me put Jovoy Psychedelique on your radar.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla- Cozy Green Blanket

As I start another review of a new Jo Malone fragrance, I am again going to laud Creative Director Celine Roux. With a brand as long-lived as this one there is a point where it can go in one of two directions. The more typical choice is to coast on a wave of self-referential mediocrity. Taking advantage of the initial goodwill built up. I’ve finally learned to just close the book on those brands. The way Jo Malone chose was to give Mme Roux a mission of reinvigorating the brand. She has done such a good job I look forward to every new release. Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is another extension of her tenure.

Celine Roux

The change had begun prior to Mme Roux’s arrival when Christine Nagel created the “Cologne Intense” sub-collection. These were richer deeper styles than previously found in a Jo Malone bottle. Since taking charge Mme Roux has put her own imprint on these more recent releases within this collection. Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is one of these.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Mme Roux has also seemingly been working with a small roster of perfumers she keeps returning to. For this one she collaborates with Mathilde Bijaoui. One of the advantages of building a working relationship with a perfumer is there is more congruity on what the perfume should smell like. That seems to be the case with these two. The concept behind this is to showcase two of the most famous ingredients from the island of Madagascar; the Bourbon varieties of vetiver and vanilla.

Before either of them show-up a fabulous top accord of cardamom, tea and grapefruit lead things off. The cardamom is the greener version, the tea is also green both combine to coax the green quality of grapefruit rind to join them. This is a smart way of tinting things a lighter shade of green before it gets down to business. That happens when the vetiver adds its grass-like green to it. Clary sage shades it deeper yet. Before this becomes too strident the vanilla appears. This is the vanilla orchid version giving a strong reminder that it is first a plant before a flavoring. It softens any of the slight edginess the vetiver supplies. The final effect is a plush comfort scent.

Vetiver & Golden Vanilla has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is another excellent perfume under Mme Roux’s oversight. If you’re looking for a little New Year’s treat snuggle underneath this cozy green blanket.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison d’Etto Macanudo- This Is Not a Cigar

When I receive new perfumes I often get images in my mind from the names. I think that is normal. It can be fun to be surprised once I spritz some onto a strip to find something completely different. This was what happened when I received my sample set of the new brand Maison d’Etto. I was attracted to the brand because of young perfumer Mackenzie Reilly. Naturally when I saw the name of the perfume she contributed to the collection, Maison d’Etto Macanudo, I thought tobacco perfume is on its way. This is not a cigar fragrance this is inspired by something else.

Brianna Lipovsky

The inspiration for Maison d’Etto comes from its founder Brianna Lipovsky. Ms. Lipovsky is an equestrian who has also worked in the beauty business. After being around those who make perfume as part of her job, she had always had the idea to combine her love of horses with a perfume collection. Late last year she would complete her vision releasing five perfumes inspired by five horses she has known throughout her life. The consistent aesthetic through all five is being on horseback. Each perfume finds a different way to interpret the vitality of a horse in motion.

Mackenzie Reilly

One of the things which causes Macanudo to stand out from the rest of the collection is its exuberance. I have never ridden a horse except when guided by someone experienced. I do have friends who are riders. I have observed a joyful grin on their faces when they are with their horse in a full-tilt gallop. There seems to be this thrill to be together as they fly through the world. I have no way of knowing this but as a guess I am thinking Macanudo was a horse Ms. Lipovsky rode as a youth. Macanudo has the feel of a teenager riding through the world without a care.

Ms. Reilly assays this by what is being churned up by the horse’s hooves; grass and earth. It is where Macanudo begins with the smell of grass and soil. Ms. Reilly uses that as the race-course through which Macanudo travels. First it races past some tart citrus groves of grapefruit as the sunlight glistens off the mane. It makes a turn through a field of narcissus and hay. Here the deeply redolent flower finds a warmer partner in the hay-like coumarin. Finally it comes to rest at the barn as vetiver captures the scent of the grass and the wood of the clapboard on the barn. Sandalwood deepens the woodiness along with just enough musk to remind you of the horse you’ve been riding.

Macanudo has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I tip my hat to Ms. Lipovsky for realizing what she wanted. The entire Maison d’Etto collection is like choosing which horse you want to take for a ride today. I know I will choose Macanudo just for the thrill of throwing my head back with joy.  

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

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Jovan Musk Oil for Men- Musk for the Masses

If you read my Christmas 2019 column you would know the first perfume that I owned was Jovan Musk Oil for Men. It’s been almost fifty years since I received that bottle and there is still a newer bottle on my shelf today. Jovan Musk Oil for Men is the very reason for this column. To let you know there are some terrific perfumes in the more economical places to purchase fragrance, like the drugstore.

When I was researching looking for the ad which made me desire a bottle, I found out some interesting background on how this perfume came to exist. It started when Barry Shipp was walking in Greenwich Village sometime in the late 1960’s. He saw a long line snaking out the door of a head shop and was curious what the commotion was about. He would discover it was for a vial of a fragrance called “musk oil”. The story goes the line had formed because the word was it made the opposite sex swoon while also being able to be worn by men or women. Mr. Shipp, then employed by Revlon, wanted to take advantage. He would partner first with Bernard Mitchell to develop a synthetic musk which would replicate the vial he had. Together they founded the French-sounding Jovan. Then he turned to a friend from the flavor industry, Murray Moscona, to act as perfumer. This was the team which assembled the perfume which would go in the bottle. What would go on the outside of the bottle that was all Mr. Shipp.

As you can see in the picture above the box itself was the come-on. Mr. Shipp would cleverly use the buzzwords to draw in his intended audience. I was one of those eager consumers who wanted what was laid out on that box. I wasn’t alone. In just the years of the 1970’s Jovan did about $1 Million in sales in 1971; the year before Jovan Musk Oil for Men was released. By the end of the decade that number had exploded to $85 million. The word-laden boxes of Jovan were seen everywhere. That’s the history of it all.

The perfume itself is also quite good. I haven’t been able to find much on Mr. Moscona other than he would do all of the Jovan perfumes in the 1970’s. He didn’t quit his day job as a flavorings chemist to take on the other work. There is a part of me that sees this as one of the early examples of American independent perfumery. Taking a singular vision of something and translating it into perfume outside of the traditional apparatus of the day.

Mr. Moscona’s lack of experience in perfume-making means he stuck to a tried and true formula. It starts with a little citrus then it transitions through carnation and lavender to head for the money note. Here is the funny thing the synthetic musk they developed wasn’t this animalic simulation of actual natural musk. They decided to seize on the sweetness of that vial of musk oil Mr. Shipp found. The synthetic musk at the base of Jovan Musk Oil for Men is more closely related to the white musks. It allowed for Mr. Moscona to add some synthetic woods which provided just enough texture to keep it from being too clean.

Jovan Musk Oil for Men has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Jovan Musk Oil for Men still holds up for me even though I am no longer a teenager looking for a perfume to attract girls. I am a colognoisseur who thinks this is still a darn good perfume for a darn good price. In other words a Discount Diamond.

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

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2020 Hopes and Wishes

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As has become my tradition I spend the last day of 2019 considering what I hope to see in 2020.

Even though you won’t count me among them I’d like to see more who comment on perfume make the leap to creative direction. One thing this past year has shown me is those who used to be out here in the interwebs can become outstanding creative directors of their own perfume. The key ingredient is putting in the work to do your vision justice. If you need examples of how to do it right Victor Wong of Zoologist, Arielle Weinberg of Arielle Shoshana, or Barbara Herman of Eris Parfums all made some of the best perfumes of 2019 by working hard at getting it right. If you need an example of how not to do it just check out the discount sites. It proves cynicism about fragrance doesn’t only exist in the mass-market sector.

I want even more innovation and boundary busting from the independent perfume community. This one will come off as ungrateful because after a boring 2018 I asked the indies to step it up. If you look back over my Best of 2019 lists, you know I think they did that in a big way. I saw new ideas in aquatics, gourmands, animalic, and chypres all arise from this group of creative minds. I know there must be some ideas for other style-busting concepts percolating out there. Bring them out for 2020. Or in the words of Oliver Twist, “Please sir, I want some more.”

More about the perfume making process from the perfumers. One of the things I’ve enjoyed a lot has been the willingness of many of the independent perfumers to find a way to communicate about their process. Shawn Maher of Chatillon Lux adds a “Scent Notes” blog post accompanying many of his new releases. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has gotten more interactive as she hosts a weekly Facebook Live where she talks about her perfumes and takes questions live. There are so many ways to remove some of the mystery of perfume making while inviting us in I’d like to see others take advantage of it.

My final wish is for someone to put together a U.S.-Based version of the great Italian perfume expositions. Esxence and Pitti Fragranze are places to be seen on the perfume calendar every year. Nothing similar exists in the US. With the vital American independent perfume community plus New York as one of the world capitals of perfume this should exist. Not sure who I am asking to take the lead on this, but I hope someone gives it a try.

As always, I appreciate everyone who takes the time out of their day to read my words. Happy New Year to everyone. Let’s all step into 2020 full of optimism for another great year of perfume.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Part 3- The Top 25 New Perfumes of 2019

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Just to keep this all in perspective. I tried 734 new perfumes since January 1, 2019. That is about a third of all new perfumes released in the same time frame. It is impossible to try everything although I keep trying. The list of perfumes below represents the best of what I encountered this year. If you want to read more on any of these, the link to the full review is in the name for each perfume on the list.

The Top 10 (Perfume of the Year candidates)

10. Comme des Garcons Copper– The best of the six perfumes released by Comme des Garcons. Perfumer Alienor Massenet created the most mutable fragrance of the year. It never seemed to smell the same from minute-to-minute but all of them were memorable ones.

9. Rubini Tambour SacreAndrea Rubini has assembled an incredible team of Italian creatives to make perfume. Tambour Sacre captured a night of drums in the Horn of Africa by the Perfumer of the Year Cristiano Canali.

8. Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede– M. Barrois asked perfumer Quentin Bisch to modify the leather accord they used in their first release B683. Ganymede is one of the best lightweight leather perfumes I’ve ever encountered. The use of immortelle is as eye-opening as the perfume itself.

7. Zoologist SquidVictor Wong had a spectacular year for his Zoologist Perfumes brand. Squid was his take on a deep-water aquatic. Perfumer Celine Barel would find a new way of experiencing the ocean as perfume in the inky depths. In a year of groundbreaking aquatics this was the best of them.  

6. Zoologist Bee– No you’re not seeing double it just shows what a great year this brand had. Mr. Wong worked with perfumer Cristiano Canali on a perfume that flowed like no other perfume I tried this year. To work with the notoriously difficult honey while keeping it from falling into its well-known fallibilities is top-notch perfume making.

5. Nishane Ani– Creative directors Mert Guzel and Marat Katran allowed perfumer Cecile Zarokian to continue to push at the boundaries of gourmand perfumes. Together they produced the best perfume this brand has ever produced by making vanilla the centerpiece of something new.

4. Hiram Green LustreHiram Green has been assembling a collection of rare beauty. That he can wring presence out of an all-natural palette is part of the reason. The other part is a jeweler’s eye when he makes a soliflore rose like Lustre. It glistens like the finest diamond as every facet gives you something new to admire.

3. Providence Perfume Co. Drunk on the MoonCharna Ethier has dissected tuberose. Then she puts it back together as pieces floating on top of a cream sherry accord. Every time I wear this, I admire the audacity it took to do this with the queen of white flowers. Stripped down to her essence she displays even more beauty through the subtlety of it all.

2. Talc d’IUNXOlivia Giacobetti is the ultimate independent perfumer working from a single storefront in Paris; releases are infrequent. At the beginning of the year Talc d’IUNX reminded everyone who started this whole transparent thing before it was a trend. She also reminded everyone there is no other perfumer like her working today. Talc d’IUNX is mesmerizing in its will-o-the-wisp fragility darting through transitions each more beautiful than the last.

1. Chatillon Lux WeinstrasseThe larger reason for why I named it the Best Perfume of 2019 can be found in Part 2. The shorter version is; it is the best perfume based on a wine that I own from the best new independent perfumer, Shawn Maher, I’ve tried in years.

The Rest of the Top 25 in alphabetical order

Aftelier Perfumes Embers & Musk and Forest Bathing– Okay I’m cheating but these two perfumes are actually 11 & 11A on my list. Mandy Aftel made a diptych of night (Embers & Musk) and day (Forest Bathing) in a pine forest.

Arielle Shoshana SundayArielle Weinberg follows up her debut perfume, collaborating again with Cecile Hua, with a next-generation gourmand based on a mixture of matcha tea and horchata. Cue up Lionel Richie and sink into it.

Bogue Douleur! Antonio Gardoni collaborated with Freddie Albrighton to turn the metallic nature of rose oxide into something that deserved that exclamation point at the end of the name.

Chatillon Lux AdmiralShawn Maher makes a freshwater river aquatic inspired by an Art Deco riverboat. If that sounds different it’s because it is.

Cognoscenti Warrior Queen– Perfumer Dannielle Sergent spent 2019 composing perfume differently than she has. Warrior Queen is a multi-layered fragrance which shows Ms. Sergent also has some more layers as a perfumer.

Eris Mxxx. Barbara Herman and perfume Antoine Lie use last year’s Mx. as the foundation for a trio of exquisitely chosen ingredients. It transforms what was good into something great.

Guerlain Embruns D’Ylang– My yearly reminder of why I shouldn’t give up on Guerlain. This time it’s a smoky ylang-ylang that shows me the creativity at the Grand Maison de Parfum may be buried under a pile of mediocrity; but it still remains.

Les Soeurs de Noe Jardin de Macarons– Creative director Nadia Benaisa worked with perfumers Pierre Wulff and Jerome Epinette on her debut collection. This one stood out because is smelled like what I imagine an orris macaron would be.

Masque Milano Kintsugi– Creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi had another fantastic year. The first release was a reconstructed chypre from perfumer Vanina Muracciole. The clever concept was by leaving the seams showing they made a contemporary chypre.

Masque Milano Love Kills– Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi asked of rising star Caroline Dumur to make an elegiac rose. She delivered a perfume composed of the fragility of a dried rose in a memory book.

Monsillage Route du Quai– Perfumer Isabelle Michaud gave me the other perspective on a freshwater river aquatic. She captured the colder flow of the St. Lawrence river where she summered as a child. Another reminder that the most creative perfumers can make the most boring styles vital again.

Rasei Fort KolonyaRasei Fort is one of the most inconsistent independent perfumers I have encountered. When he is at his best, the perfume he creates is also one of the best. Kolonya is his remarkable combination of memory and classic cologne into something magical.

Roberto Greco Oeilleres– French photographer Roberto Greco worked for two years with perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato to create an “anti-flower” perfume. It goes back and forth between old school and contemporary in a way which makes it seem equal parts of both.

Senyoko La Tsarine– The best release from a brand I discovered just this year. Joseph and Emilia Berthion have collaborated with perfumer Euan McCall on a remarkable collection with breadth. La Tsarine is inspired by the carnal adventures of Catherine the Great. Rare is the perfume that lives up to that. La Tsarine is unafraid to delve deeply into the concept. A perfume not for the timid.

Strangelove NYC fallintostarsElizabeth Gaynes and Helena Christensen along with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel have created a memorable collection of perfumes which have always enthralled me. fallintostars is the best of them because they use everything they have learned to create a transcendent perfume.

The Next 25 Just Because This Was Such a Good Year

Aether Arts Perfume Burner Perfume No. 10 Chrysalis– Amber Jobin created a perfume of transitions.

April Aromatics Vetiver Coeur– Tanja Bochnig finds the serenity within vetiver

Ariana Grande ThankU, Next– Best bang for your buck perfume of 2019.

Arquiste Misfit– Turns patchouli from head shop to elegant.

Bruno Fazzolari Zdravetz– A unique source of geranium leads to a singular perfume.

Chanel Paris-Riviera– Another fun travel with Coco.

Curata Dulceo– Another evolution of gourmand from a new independent brand.

Floral Street Ylang-Ylang Espresso– Sometimes a perfume delivers what it promises on the label.

Francesca Bianchi The Black Knight– The scent of a noble knight no matter what the color says.

Frapin If by R.K. An homage to India featuring Mysore sandalwood.

Gucci Memoire d’une Odeur– Best mainstream perfume of 2019.

Hermes Un Jardin sur la Lagune– Christine Nagel turns the Jardin series inward.

Imaginary Authors Telegrama– Modern masculine barbershop.

Ineke Jaipur Chai– The smell of a cup of chai while looking out the picture window.

Maison Violet Tanagra– Heritage brand which gets it right.

Marlou Poudrextase– Another musky NSFW perfume.

Memo Winter Palace– The best Oriental from Memo in years.

NARS Audacious– Olivia Giacobetti’s stealth mainstream release.

Phoenicia Perfumes Dark Musk– A truly fascinating musk accord.

Puredistance Gold– A luxurious perfume which lives up to its name.

Rogue Chypre-Siam– Chypre as composed in a Thai restaurant.

Ryan Richmond Rich Mess– Crazy kinetic perfume.

Sarah Baker Charade– Old school elegance in a modern setting.

Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere– The only perfume which should have had a little umbrella in it.

Zaharoff Signature pour Homme– A great perfume for a man who wants only one on his dresser.

I close all of this with the same phrase I began it with. 2019 was the greatest year for independent perfumery ever. I hope 2020 will be even better.

Mark Behnke

Best of 2019 Prologue

Best of 2019 Part 1 Overview

Best of 2019 Part 2 Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Driector, and Brand of the Year