Remembrance of Gaia Fishler The Non-Blonde

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I always smile when people can’t believe there are readers for a blog about perfume. I know I was one of them for a long time. Then in 2006 there was a group of online pioneers who started writing about perfume. I’ve always called them “The Original Five”. These blogs were the entry point for so many of us who love perfume. A week ago we lost one of those women who had the drive to start writing about perfume, and make-up, in a public way; Gaia Fishler of The Non-Blonde.

I ran into Gaia at different New York City functions for a few years. We would exchange words once I began writing for Fragrantica and CaFleureBon. In those early short exchanges she answered my questions graciously. She confirmed my belief that 400-500 smartly chosen words was better than two or three times that.

It wasn’t until a party in 2013 that we became friends. It started with perfume. We started talking about unicorns; those perfumes that are discontinued but are incredible. She was the only reviewer who had written about a brand called Gobin Daude. They were only in production a short time. She was the only person I could have a deep conversation about those with. What was amazing was her depth of knowledge as she compared them back to other perfumes. I kind of felt like a student in a private master class. Which was one of the great things about Gaia; in a room full of people she could make it seem like you were the only conversation that mattered.

We would meet again a few months later and she would hand me a vial. This was the other perfume we talked about that night; Tauer Orris. That I don’t own and only had a precious few drops. She changed that giving me a sample that has lasted me until today. When she gave it to me, I experienced something she freely bestowed on most who crossed her path; a smile. This is not just teeth and upturned lips. Gaia’s smile was a benediction. She was glad to see you; even happier to give you something that gave you pleasure.

Gaia was also the final push out of the safety zone I had created for myself to start Colognoisseur. I had been thinking about it and she asked me why I hadn’t done it. I had a lot of reasons, but it was mainly I thought it would be too hard being on my own. She looked at me intently and said, “Do it.” I’ve always likened taking a big step to standing at the edge of the high dive and convincing yourself to jump. Gaia was standing at the side of the pool telling me to step off the platform. She was there to support me as she put my blog at the top of her blogroll with “New” next to it. For the first year and a half I got most of my new readers from that. You might be one of them.

I can hear Gaia telling me, in my head, “over 500 words wrap it up.” I smell the drop of Orris on my wrist, I can see her smile. Goodbye Gaia.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Holiday Perfume Buyers Guide 2019 Part 3- Cyber Monday

The last part of the Holiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide is for those of you who like to do your shopping online. Cyber Monday has become the day when this hits its peak as online retailers offer online-only deals. Buying perfume online is an especially tricky business. For this piece of the Buyer’s Guide I am going to suggest a couple things which are easier to get online.

The first suggestion is what I think is the absolute best gift for anyone in your circle who loves perfume. Michael Edwards the man behind the perfume database Fragrances of the World released a new book this fall; Perfume Legends II. It is a large format coffee table book. It tells the history of modern perfumery in 52 bottles from the first, Fougere Royale, to 2010’s Portrait of a Lady. What makes this so fascinating is Mr. Edwards also examines the impact of perfume societally as he moves through each successive chapter. He accompanies each entry with archival photos and pictures of the bottles, of course. It is as beautiful to look at as it is educational to read. For Cyber Monday and the entire Holiday season I have a discount code which will allow you to take 10% off the price if you enter COL19 at this link.

The other great online choice for anyone interested in perfume is a subscription box. These are services which send you monthly selections to try and eventually buy if you like them. My favorite of them is Ofactif. You can take a subscription for as little as a month or as long as a year with almost any fraction available. For the term of your subscription you will receive a box containing three samples of niche perfumes. Each has cards accompanying it telling you about the creative team, style of perfume, and the note list. Each sample is enough for anyone to wear the perfume for a few days. This has been one of the best ways for small brand independent perfumes to be available to those who aren’t in large urban areas. For Cyber Monday they are offering across the board discounts on their website.

My final suggestion is for a copy of the perfume magazine Nez. Published twice-a-year it is a compendium of many great articles, interviews with perfume makers, and perfume reviews.
Each issue is the pinnacle of perfume editorial content. On their website you can buy a subscription or an individual issue.

I hope everyone has a fabulous Holiday Season and something I have suggested ends up in someone’s hands.

Disclosure: I was given a copy of Perfume Legends II from the publisher. I subscribe to Ofactif on my own. I have purchased the issues of Nez I own.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Holiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide 2019 Part 2- Support Your Local Perfumery

One of my favorite initiatives for Holiday shopping was begun in 2010. The brainchild of the American Express company it was meant to turn the day after Black Friday into something local; Small Business Saturday. It is meant to encourage shoppers’ attention to the small shops in their local area and to spend the day shopping there.

For perfume lovers these are the stores which give shelf space to the most creative independent brands. Almost always owned by people who also adore perfume. These are the ambassadors who show people there is more to perfume than the mainstream. For this year’s buyer’s guide I am going to focus on some stores which produced their own perfumes. Along with some other independent brands which have produced notable new releases this year.

The Creative Director as Store Owner

For a column like this I am going to start locally with Arielle Shoshana Sunday. Owner of the shop Arielle Shoshana in Arlington, VA Arielle Weinberg oversees her second collaboration with perfumer Cecile Hua. This time they make a one-of-a-kind gourmand around a pairing of matcha tea and the Mexican drink horchata.

Dave Kern has been releasing limited editions under the name of his perfumery American Perfumer in Louisville, KY. He won an Art & Olfaction Award for last year’s collaboration with perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz; Colorado. These are limited editions which have generally sold out. This year’s version with perfumer Hans Hendley, Bloodline, was gone in a day. Mr. Hendley has other perfume which is more available. Hans Hendley Bourbon captures the sweetness of whiskey encased in woods. It is an ideal Holiday season style of fragrance.

I only recently tried the perfumes overseen by owner Nir Guy of the store Perfumology in King of Prussia, PA. This year’s release Perfumology L’Ima continues his work with perfumer Justin Frederico. A fantastic mixture of the smell of the summer garden. Tomato leaf, citrus, florals, and warm amber capture the milieu.

Other Great Indie Perfume of 2019

You should be able to find these perfumes at smaller boutiques all of which usually have online sales.

Bogue Douleur! takes you from metallic rose to strawberry cotton candy.

Dasein Winter Green is a Holiday mixture of mint and Christmas tree.

Hiram Green Lustre is an all-natural rose soliflore of uncommon quality.

Maison Violet Un Air d’Apogee is a tobaccoed floral which captures the retro nouveau aesthetic.

Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede is an amazing lightweight leather.

Masque Milano Kintsugi reconstructs the broken chypre into a new modern form.

Monsillage Route du Quai is a unique take on the aquatic which captures the flow of a large freshwater river.

Providence Perfume Co. Drunk on the Moon is a slightly boozy tuberose from one of the best indie perfumers.

Roberto Greco Oeilleres is a throwback style of perfume which uses an overdose of chamomile to make an artistic thesis.

Rogue Perfumery Chypre-Siam is an old-school chypre as filtered through a Thai restaurant.

Rubini Tambour Sacre captures the rhythms of the Horn of Africa in golden tones.

Ryan Richmond Rich Mess is anything but a mess; it is a mesmerizing kinetic blend.

Get out and shop this Saturday and every other shopping day. It is the support of local perfume lovers which keep these stores going.

Disclosure: All the perfumes mentioned provided samples from the brand.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Holiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide 2019 Part 1- At The Mall

It is Thanksgiving in the US. It is also the pause before the frantic Holiday shopping season. Which will begin at about the same time the dishwasher is turned on in most homes. Black Friday has now encroached on the day before.

Fragrance is always a popular choice as a gift. I think it can be a difficult effort because we all experience scent so differently. I have posted a way which requires some extra steps but can make perfume an intimate gift at this link.

For most everyone else they are just going to be faced with sales reps trying to tell you this is the best perfume ever. They’re probably incorrect but you never know. To help navigate the season I am going to spend the next three days with different buyer’s guides. Today in Part 1 it is what has come out over the past year at the mall. Tomorrow in Part 2 for Small Business Saturday I will focus on small stand-alone perfume boutique offerings. Finally, in Part 3 for Cyber Monday I’ll have some suggestions for things to click on and get delivered to your home.

This list should all be available at large department stores. Links to the full reviews can be found in the names.

Aerin Rose Cocoa followed up last year’s Holiday offering of Cocoa Woods. This is a gently spicy rose gourmand perfume where the cocoa acts as chocolate snow upon the rose.

Bastide Verveine du Sud is a perfume from the husband-and-wife team of Frederic and Shirin Fekkai inspired by their Provence home. Verveine du Sud is a Provencal twilight as the cool night meets the green florals.

By Rosie Jane Lake is a new discovery by me but I admire the well-blended perfumes of the brand for their simple aesthetic. Lake takes you on a fall hike around Lake Tahoe.

Chanel Gabrielle Essence follows the release of Gabrielle two years ago. Perfume Olivier Polge turns Gabrielle Essence into a sweeter floral than its predecessor which I think exudes a greater assurance.

Ellis Brooklyn West is another release from Bee Shapiro’s excellent line of fragrance. Working again with perfumer Jerome Epinette they create an unusual citrus perfume featuring basil and blood orange.

M. Epinette is also the nose behind Floral Street Ylang Ylang Espresso. In this case he takes a fractionated version of ylang ylang which is contrasted with a bitter oily coffee bean accord. If you’re sick of sweet gourmands, this is a great alternative.

Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree is a perfume which wanted to be a modern floral for a contemporary woman. Perfumer Christine Nagel uses herbal baie rose, powdery rose, and a less earthy patchouli to create a simply elegant perfume.

If you need a cologne for the men in your life who only want a bottle or two, Zaharoff Signature pour Homme is exactly that. Perfumer Claude Dir creates a classic woody fougere that feels young instead of dated. Probably the best thing on the Men’s Fragrance counter at the mall today.

I am going to end with a suggestion that you should be careful about buying for someone who doesn’t wear a lot of perfume. But you should absolutely consider it for anyone in your circle who is a perfume fan.

Gucci Memoire d’une Odeur is unlike anything else in the mass-market sector. Creative director Alessandro Michele and perfumer Alberto Morillas are asking the provocative question, will consumers take a step out of their comfort zone. This is an incredibly intricate perfume focused on the edgy floral chamomile. It is the kind of perfume which comes around so rarely in the mainstream.

To all my US readers Happy Thanksgiving! To everyone else I hope this helps you when you end up at the perfume counter.

Disclosure: The manufacturers provided samples of all the perfumes mentioned.

Mark Behnke

2019 First-Half Report

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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

Colognoisseur 2019 Hopes and Wishes

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I close out 2018 with a look for what I am hoping and wishing for in 2019.

I’m still coming to grips with the loss of independent perfumer Vero Kern. For 2019 I am hoping that a new independent perfumer who embodies Fr. Kern’s indefatigable spirit paired with her love of perfume making appears. I’ve heard nature abhors a vacuum; let’s see if that is true.

I wish for my favorite niche brands to push the edges of their aesthetic a little bit more. It is perverse that I have asked over the last few years for an expansion of niche brands. I’ve largely seen that come true. The price seems to have been a 2018 where those brands stayed right in the center of what they do best. This produced good perfume without inspiring me. The creative teams behind all these brands have already shown they can produce wonderful innovative perfumes before. Let 2019 show that spirit again.

American Perfumer in Louisville, Kentucky

I have a very selfish wish for the success of a single store; Dave Kern’s shop dedicated to American independent perfume in Louisville, Kentucky called American Perfumer. I generally wish every small brick and mortar store which sells niche and independent perfumes in their local community success; that hasn’t changed. Mr. Kern is exclusively working with the American indies who have had one of the best years in 2018 I can remember. It seems like with that as a start supplemented with exclusive limited editions, he should hopefully have a successful 2019.

I really wish that the Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio collection could be made available outside of Mexico. The eight perfumes in this collection are examples of the best niche perfumery has to offer. It comes from a place deep within the hearts of creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. I am sure there are exclusivity contracts which prohibit this, but this is a list of wishes not business realities. In that spirit I’ll add one more; maybe they could be available in an Arquiste boutique.

My final wish is for a continuation of the exceptional creativity I saw in 2018 in the indie perfumes and young brands. I think a lot of it is because the ones I am talking about have been around long enough that they are secure in their business plan allowing for their artistic plan to flourish. If that hypothesis is correct this is probably the one wish which will definitely be realized in 2019.

As always, I want to wish all the readers of Colognoisseur a Happy New Year. My thanks for spending a little time reading my blog over the past year. Let’s see, together, what 2019 will bring.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2018: Part 3- The Top 25 New Perfumes of the Year

This year I tried 701 new perfumes. To keep that in perspective, it is about 30% of all new perfume released in 2018. The Top 25 below represents the best 3.6% of what I encountered this year

The Top 5 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)

5. Cartier Carat– The best mainstream release of 2018 it is a celebration of the skill of Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent. It is simply described as a transparent formula. What Mme Laurent put in the bottle was a faceted floral jewel which changed as you looked at each facet. A kaleidoscopic perfume that helped me embrace the potential of the transparent trend which is here to stay in perfume.

4. Providence Perfume Co. Vientiane– Independent perfumer Charna Ethier fused a jasmine rice tincture to a tower of sandalwood. It resulted in a perfume which gave me new insight into one of the most venerable notes in perfumery. It also is a testament to Ms. Ethier’s skill to shine a light into those spaces.

3. April Aromatics Irisistible– This is the culmination of all of the efforts perfumer Tanja Bochnig has produced over the years for her April Aromatics brand. Each release over the last couple of years has been better than the last. Irisistible will be a perfume Fr. Bochnig will find difficult to top. A floral rainbow with a rooty iris as the most brilliant band of color.

2. Neela Vermeire Creations NiralNeela Vermeire has successfully found the perfume place where her Indian and French sensibilities overlap. It has produced one of the best independent perfume collections on the market. Mme Vermeire has worked exclusively with perfumer Bertrnad Duchaufour. For Niral they undertook the concept of capturing Tussar silk as a perfume. It is something I think could only have been made by a creative director and perfumer who have been working together for years. Niral flows in shimmering silken waves of iris that slither through the air opulently.

1. Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio GuayabosThere is a much longer explanation in Part 2 of the Best of 2018 posts. For this list I’ll keep it short; the best Arquiste along with the best perfume by Rodrigo Flores-Roux.

The Rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order

4160 Tuesdays Freeway– Sarah McCartney had an incredibly creative 2018. Her evocation of LA was the best one.

A Lab on Fire And The World Is Yours– This combination of neroli and cumin captures the morning after when the rising sun signals the end of the party.

Aftelier AlchemyMandy Aftel looked back to her beginning which allowed Alchemy to confirm her vision has never strayed.

aromaM Geisha Botan– Maria McElroy composed a spring floral featuring peony; I wish more did it like this.

Avon Velvet– Best Bang for the Buck perfume on the list. Perfumer Gabriela Chelariu proves it’s the perfumer and not the ingredients in a lush fig-rose-patchouli perfume that smells like it belongs on the top shelf.

Blackbird Y06-S– Nicole Miller produced an envelope-pushing skanky jasmine and banana fragrance which I can’t forget.

Commodity Nectar– This brand has become the most reliable economical brand by allowing perfumers the freedom to create as they wish. Mathieu Nardin used that to create a summery neroli

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for American Perfumer Colorado Dave Kern commissioned two limited editions for his new American Perfumer store. This one by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz captures the slope of the Rockies right outside Ms. Hurwitz’s door.

DSH Perfumes Summer Cologne– Ms. Hurwitz was also equally creative for her own line as this tomato leaf twist on the classic eau de cologne was the best version of this form in 2018.

Frassai A Fuego Lento– This brand creatively directed by Natalia Outeda debuted in 2018. A Fuego Lento by Rodrigo Flores-Roux is a jasmine-leather stunner.

Hermes Hermessence Cardamusc– In-house perfumer Christine Nagel makes the Hermessence collection her own with an oil formulation of cardamom, in overdose, and musks.

Hiram Green HydeHiram Green puts together a birch tar all-natural leather perfume that grabs you and does not let go.

Jo Malone Jasmine Sambac & Marigold– Creative director Celine Roux has overseen a creative rebirth at Jo Malone. Jasmine Sambac & Marigold, by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui, is the best example of that in 2018.

Jovoy Remember Me– If you need evidence that gourmand perfumes can be amazing this is it. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian melds delicate florals over strong black tea.

L’Iris de Fath– Creative director Rania Naim believed she could re-formulate Iris Gris. The proof of that belief is in the bottle.

Maison Rebatchi Joyeux OsmantheMohamed Rebatchi is the creative director of a new brand making a splash. Working with perfumer Maurice Roucel osmanthus stands up to tuberose; gorgeously.

Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower The second limited edition from Dave Kern and the American Perfumer store. Maria McElroy weaves a story of youth and adulthood on the edge of the desert. All using rare Arabian oils.

Pekji Zeybek– The best new brand of 2018 goes to Pekji from Omer Ipecki. A strong debut collection of five perfumes is headed by this abstract perfume vision of the horse barn.

strangeloveNYC lostinflowers– Creative director Elizabeth Gaynes came home from a trip to India with a champaca extract called “joy oil”. When she asked perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to use it in a perfume it gave me a lot of joy.

Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex– There is a part of me that thinks creative director Victor Wong and perfumer Antonio Gardoni came up with the idea of a prehistoric jungle on fire as a joke. The perfume is no joke. It is a completely original perfume.

An extra 3.5%; or the 23 perfumes which just missed being on the list above

A Lab on Fire Hallucinogenic Pearl– the De Laire bases return in a violet and iris perfume.

Acqua di Parma Chinotto di Liguria– Another classic Mediterranean style cologne

Aether Arts Perfume The AI Series– A set of fiercely intelligent perfumes which invaded my thoughts

Blocki Sanrovia– Sandalwood from a heritage brand with an eye on the future.

Britney Spears Prerogative– Best celebrity perfume of 2018

Bruno Fazzolari Fontevraud– A deconstructed chypre that actually was

Chanel 1957– A gleaming glass and metal tower of white musks

Diptyque Tempo– Thoroughly modern patchouli

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Music For A While– Who knew I wanted lavender to go with pineapple.

Fath’s Essentials Red Shoes– One of perfumer Cecile Zarokian’s best.

Gucci Bloom Nettare di Fiori– Best flanker of 2018

Heeley Blanc Poudre– The smell of laundered warm cotton

Imaginary Authors Whispered Myths– Josh Meyer tries something different.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Mont de Narcisse– A leather, narcissus, and immortelle beauty.

Louis Vuitton Nouveau Monde– The leather I wanted from LV.

Masque Milano (homage to) Hemingway– A full-spectrum vetiver

McQueen Collection Sacred Osmanthus– Transparent osmanthus soliflore

Terre d’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver– Christine Nagel brings the vetiver forward

Molton Brown Muddled Plum– Boozy fruity gourmand

Nest Cocoa Woods– A perfume that lives up to both nouns in its name.

Providence Perfume Co. Lemon Liada– A citrus perfume where lemon is front and center with no lemon being used.

Tom Ford Private Blend Lost Cherry– First Private Blend which felt like the early days of the brand.

Zoologist Hyrax– Funkiest, in a good way, perfume of 2018.

That’s it for 2018.

Part 1 Overview of 2018

Part 2 Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2018: Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

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Part 1, yesterday, was my look back at the year in broad terms. Today in Part 2 I get specific naming the best of the year in four categories.

Perfume of the Year: Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio GuayabosArquiste Creative Director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux began their exclusive collection for luxury Mexican department store El Palacio de El Hierro in 2016. As of the end of 2018 they have released eight perfumes exploring the botany of Mexico in a set of “tree stories”. Both creative minds behind this collection have always put a little bit of their homeland of Mexico in every Arquiste release they have collaborated on. Saying that, this collection feels like there is heart and soul, along with the country, within each of these excellent perfumes.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux (l.) and Carlos Huber

During the summer I received Guayabos which immediately connected with me. I have worn this weekly since I received it. I’ve sprayed my bed with it. The poodles have inadvertently ended up smelling like it. It is one of the very best perfumes ever made by Sr. Flores-Roux.

I scheduled a call with him at Givaudan to find out how this came together. The concept was to create a guava perfume which captured the ripe guava in his house as child. As an adult the perfumer had to undertake headspace analysis of green guava, ripe guava, and guava blossom. This would lead to a layered effect which captured the esencia of guava. Jasmine and osmanthus provide the perfect floral companions over a clean woody base accord.

Guayabos is my perfume of the year because it was an obra de amor (labor of love) for Srs. Flores-Roux and Huber.

Charna Ethier

Perfumer of the Year: Charna Ethier– 2018 is going to be memorable for the excellent independent perfumer releases. The independent perfumer who had the strongest year was Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. She has been one of the most consistently innovative perfumers I encounter. 2018 is the year where that quality overflowed in three spectacular releases. The first was Vientiane a study in sandalwood which was elevated by a jasmine rice tincture. Next came Lemon Liada an abstraction of lemon eau de cologne with no lemon used as an ingredient. Sedona Sweetgrass captures the scent of the American desert southwest in a photorealistic manner.

The breadth of these three perfumes is not only testament to why the indies rocked 2018 but more specifically why Charna Ethier is my Perfumer of the Year.  

Runner-Ups: Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Maria McElroy, Cecile Zarokian, and Sarah McCartney

Rania Naim

Creative Director of the Year: Rania Naim– How about this for a to-do list for 2018? Take on the reformulation of one of the great historic perfumes. While doing that create four new contemporary perfumes honoring that history. That would sink most creative directors. That Rania Naim succeeded makes her the easy choice as Creative Director of the Year.

The first part of the year was given over to completing the new formulation of Jacques Fath Iris Gris. Mme Naim oversaw a painstaking effort to achieve something amazing in L’Iris de Fath. She would end up trusting a young creative team to accomplish this; which succeeded spectacularly. The decision to trust in young creative perfumers extends to the Fath’s Essentials releases where perfumers Cecile Zarokian and Luca Maffei produced two perfumes each under Mme Naim’s direction. All four exemplify the creativity still able to be found in the niche sector.

Capturing the past while living in the present means the future is all that is left to Rania Naim; my choice for Creative Director of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Carlos Huber (Arquiste), Victor Wong (Zoologist Perfumes), and Celine Roux (Jo Malone)

Brand of the Year: A Lab on Fire– If other brands weren’t going to show me something different Carlos Kusubayashi allowed perfumer Dominique Ropion to capture “The Morning After” winning an Academy award in And The World Is Yours. A long night into day encapsulated by neroli and cumin. This was followed up by perfumer Emilie Coppermann combining violet along with the De Laire base of Iriseine in a gorgeous purple flower melody called Hallucinogenic Pearl. Mr. Kusubayashi has never been afraid to release what comes of giving perfumers the space to create freely. In 2018 it makes A Lab on Fire my Brand of the Year.

Runner-Ups: DSH Perfumes, 4160 Tuesdays, Arquiste, Jacques Fath, and Jo Malone

Part 1 was my broad overview of 2018

Part 3 is my Top 25 New Perfumes of 2018.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2018: Part 1- Overview

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2018 was a year in which the perfume companies more firmly tuned their fragrances towards a younger generation. I tried 701 new perfume releases this past year. If there was one dominant trend it was towards transparent styles; especially in the mainstream sector. It also meant simpler constructs using three to five ingredients. The difficulty I had with this is the great majority of these perfumes fell apart with any scrutiny. Too often transparent minimalism could be summarized succinctly as insipid. Slightly more charitable it was a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes as the brands tried to sell more and more “nothing there” product. The best (worst?) example was the twenty-five releases, at one time, from clothing brand H&M. They didn’t even disguise their attempt to push out a wave of poorly made fragrance. It was a bad joke which made me wish I had only tried 676 new perfumes this year.

Transparent New Clothes for The Emperor

I have had some problems embracing the whole trend because I believe its success requires a very skilled perfumer. Proof of that would come early in the fall with the release of Cartier Carat as in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent produced a magnificently kinetic transparent floral. It would be followed by the McQueen Collection of soliflore-like constructions employing some of the best perfumers to show the potential of this style of perfume making.

Another emerging trend is the rise of gourmand style perfumes. This might be the last genre of fragrance which has not been terribly overexposed. It means it is fertile ground for brands to make a statement. It also is a style which adapts well to the transparency. Jovoy Remember Me by perfumer Cecile Zarokian was an audacious attempt to push the form forward. I think we will see a spectacular contemporary gourmand soon.

If the perceived banality of the mainstream releases was getting me down the independent perfumers were here to rescue me. They were ready to give me the jump start I needed to throw off my malaise.

Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes would oversee the funk of Hyrax with perfumer Sven Pritzkoleit and the prehistoric jungle fire of Tyrannosaurus Rex by perfumer Antonio Gardoni.

Nicole Miller of Blackbird sent out the skanky banana of Y06-S and the oddly compelling plum gourmand Anemone.

Amber Jobin of Aether Arts Perfume created The AI Series which was experimental perfumery of the highest order.

Hiram Green produced a birch tar overload in Hyde a complete opposite of the enticing tobacco and honey of Slowdive.

Of course, 2018 ended with the loss of one of the great independent perfumers, Vero Kern. As that happened, I was reminded of the old saying “when a door closes a window opens”. The window might be looking toward Turkish perfumer Omer Ipecki and his Pekji brand. Mr. Ipecki like Fr. Kern took years to perfect his perfumes before releasing them. He listened to his own artistic vision while displaying an independent swagger. I know I’m laying a large burden on Mr. Ipecki’s shoulders I am hopeful he will bear it with good humor.

If there was a disappointment it was from the niche brands. Many of them safely stayed within their well-trodden lanes. I feel somewhat churlish for saying this because there were many I liked, but very few of them tried anything different. As I looked back it seemed like too many of the brands found a successful space which they continued within. As I think will become apparent over the next two days there were few which stood out.

I still retain my excitement about perfume as it exists in 2018. As I reveal my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director and Brand of the Year tomorrow and the Top 25 new perfumes the day after these are the reasons why I feel that way.

Mark Behnke

A Tribute to Vero Kern 1940-2018

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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