There are certain ingredients in perfume which have such a multi-faceted character I enjoy smelling the absolute on its own. Beeswax absolute is one of those. Created by extracting hives which have been around for years. Depending on where those hives are from each version has its own scent profile. What is common is a musky honey infused with the pollen harvested from whatever indigenous plant life surrounds the hive. While the absolute is great by itself it is even better when used in a perfume here are five of my favorites.
Chanel Antaeus pour Homme was my first experience with beeswax in perfume although I didn’t know it at the time. It was part of my early expansion of my perfume collection. It provides a bit of animalic muskiness underneath the sage, patchouli, and labdanum spine. I was attracted to it because of that.
I talk about inflection points by perfumers all the time. Ineke Field Notes From Paris was that for independent perfumer Ineke Ruhland. The beeswax brings home a gorientalmand base stitching together tonka bean, vanilla, and amber. Prior to that is the smell of a Paris day.
Rubini Fundamental is one of the most original perfumes of the last few years. The creative team of Andrea Bissoli Rubini,Ermano Picco, and perfumer Cristiano Canali created a perfume capturing Verona in 1937 with the actors, in greasepaint, taking a break underneath the grape arbor. It is beeswax which provides the linchpin to the greasepaint accord mixed with the grapes in the heart of Fundamental. If you’re looking for something completely different this is where you should go.
Maria Candida Gentile released a trio of perfumes in 2014 called “Flight of the Bumblebee”. Within that she used three different sources of beeswax. It was Leuco and its powdery French beeswax which was my favorite. It was the counterweight to a keynote of tuberose. The beeswax provided a muffling effect while also adding a shimmering effect over the top of it all. Leuco is my favorite of al of Sig.ra Gentile’s perfumes.
For a straightforward beeswax experience there is nothing better than Sonoma Scent Studio Bee’s Bliss. Independent perfumer Laurie Erickson created a perfume which captures the entire process of honey. Starting with mimosa as the flower harvested on top of a rich honey accord. The beeswax represents the hive along with vetiver representing the propolis which holds the cells together. It is a gorgeous abstraction of harvesting honey fresh from the hive.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.
Once again I tried to smell every new perfume that was released in 2014 and like Wile E. Coyote chasing The Road Runner, I failed. I did smell more this year than I ever have, 614 new perfumes. Unfortunately as of this writing there were 1614 new releases in 2014. I only missed by a 1000. I think we can all agree that there is just too much new product which just smells too similar. The 25 perfumes I highlight below managed to stand out from everything I tried this year.
Top 5 (Fragrance of the Year Candidates)
5. Amouage Sunshine Woman– Creative Director Christopher Chong and perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur have created the most un-Amouage Amouage perfume in Sunshine Woman. With Mr. Chong’s hand on the creative wheel Mme Lancesseur guided Amouage into sunnier places than Amouage usually travels. That they accomplished this without using the typical sparkling ingredients from the perfumer’s palette makes it all the more remarkable. I still don’t think I do justice describing this in words other than it is one of the best perfumes of the year.
4. Maria Candida Gentile Leuco– When I attended Pitti Fragranze I must have tried thirty tuberose perfumes each more boringly generic than the next one. Until Maria Candida Gentile handed me Leuco. As part of her Il Volo del Calabrone (Flight of the Bumblebee) collection she has made a tuberose that does not seek to club you over the head. In Leuco, Sig.ra Gentile has combined it with French beeswax to create a shimmering powdery tuberose perfume.
2. Bogue Profumo Maai– The absolute best surprise of all of 2014 for me. I had heard a little bit of independent perfumer Antonio Gardoni. I didn’t expect such an assured piece of perfumery from a self-taught artist on his third release. Maai feels like a perfume of yesteryear that could be found in the glove compartment of a Tesla. When I speak of Retro Nouveau, if you need an example, try Maai and I think you’ll instantly understand what I mean.
Here are the rest of the Top 25 in alphabetical order:
Aftelier Palimpsest– Natural Perfumer Mandy Aftel is a national treasure as she continues to branch out. Her book Fragrant is the best volume on perfume in years. She also released a transcendent perfume named after the technique used in medieval times of writing over already used parchment. Palimpsest the perfume also has layers upon layers which reward my attention every time I wear it.
Ann Gerard Parfum Rose Cut– Ann Gerard came to perfumery from designing jewelry. Her fourth collaboration with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour is a bright shining diamond that smells like a rose.
aromaM Camellia– Indie Perfumer Maria McElroy makes what I think is her most personal perfume to date. Camellia takes you more than skin deep right to the soul of a geisha in a subtle floral constructed around the titular note.
Arquiste The Architects Club– My Creative Director of the Year Carlos Huber obviously had a great 2014. The Architects Club is the crown on that year as a clash of uptight architects and flappers in 1930 London turns into a citrus, gin, and vanilla laden party. I keep going back to perfumer Yann Vasnier’s fragrant soiree for more.
By Kilian Intoxicated– If you felt that By Kilian has been off on a bit of a tangent you should come back and try the perfumes in the new Addictive State of Mind Collection. Intoxicated is a perfumed take on Turkish coffee by Calice Becker. She combines green cardamom and coffee into something I never want to see in a Starbucks cup but I want to wear over and over.
Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria– There was no sequel I was more wary of than the second collaboration between Comme des Garcons and milliner Stephen Jones. Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer created something akin to a new hat. You have to wear it a few times before it really fits. If you give Wisteria Hysteria time you will find a perfume with more subtlety and nuance throughout than almost any other release in 2014.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
DSH Perfumes Seve de Pin– Dawn Spencer Hurwitz finds inspiration in so many places. Once she found Eric Bresselsmith of House of Aromatics and his 50-year old resin crystals in pure pinion oil she turned it into a photorealistic pine perfume like nothing I have ever smelled in this genre. Rocky Mountain high, indeed.
Etat Libre D’Orange Rien Intense Incense– Creative Director Etienne de Swadt asked perfumer Antoine Lie to create an “intense” version of the already intense 2006 release Rien. This could have gone wrong in so many ways but M. Lie created a flanker that is better than the original.
Hiram Green Shangri-La– Hiram Green was inspired by the alpha chypre, Chypre de Coty, to make his own version. His version may not be as groundbreaking as to create a whole new fragrance category but it as good as modern chypres get. Mr. Green has established himself as a new perfumer to watch in just his second release.
Le Labo Geranium 30– I wanted to not like this. A limited edition of only 100 bottles by perfumer Barnabe Fillion in collaboration with lifestyle store Opening Ceremony with added creative direction from floral designer Thierry Boutemy. I wanted to dismiss this, I really did. I can’t. It is the best Le Labo floral since Rose 31. There is no reason for this to be so limited because of some rare ingredient so maybe the new masters at Estee Lauder can release it widely in 2015, y’know as a goodwill gesture.
Map of the Heart Black Heart v.2– If you, like me, have wondered just how dark a perfume can get and still remain wearable this will test that. Perfumer Jacques Huclier makes a perfume that has not even one tiny point of light. If you’ve craved an olfactory heart of darkness, here it is.
Masque Milano Russian Tea– I’ll admit I wasn’t as big a fan of the initial three releases from Masque Milano in 2013. It couldn’t be a more different story in 2014. The second release for 2014, Russian Tea, is fabulous. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet, in the last perfume of his independent career, realized creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi’s brief of having a potent cup of tea on a winter’s day in St. Petersburg.
Naomi Goodsir Or du Serail– Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier are two of my favorite creative directors because they are uncompromising in waiting until they get the modification they want. For Or du Serail they pushed perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour into creating one of his best and most textural perfumes of the last couple of years.
Neela Vermeire Creations Mohur Extrait– Neela Vermeire let me have a tiny taste of this over a year before it was finally released. It was a very frustrating secret to keep because Mohur Extrait is the best of this line to date. Mohur Extrait is a quantum leap better than the very good parent Mohur EdP all while staying very personal.
Olfactive Studio Ombre Indigo– The blue liquid in the clear flacon is visually striking all by itself. The photographic inspiration by Gustavo Pelizzon is a study in shadow. The perfume by Mylene Alran under owner Celine Verleur’s creative direction is a study in chasing perfumed shadows cast by tuberose and vetiver. I still haven’t tired of it.
Olivier Durbano Promethee– Experiencing Olivier Durbano’s development as a perfumer for nearly ten years didn’t prepare me for this fully realized creation based on the mythological character Prometheus. It feels like M. Durbano has offered a smoldering firebrand announcing his arrival as one of our best perfumers.
Parfumerie Genrale 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense– Pierre Guillaume has been going back and making variations on his earlier Parfumerie Generale fragrances. This re-working of Cologne Grand Siecle felt like he finally completed that perfume, adding in a proper heart and base to what was, and in 7.1 still is, one of the most brilliant lemon accords I have ever smelled. This was my favorite perfume of the summer of 2014. I really hope he keeps making it.
Roja Parfums Nuwa– There are sometimes I want my perfume to be big as it can be. Say what you will of Roja Dove but he has no fear of going as big as you can. Nuwa is that philosophy applied to a classic chypre.
slumberhouse Sadanne– Perfumer Josh Lobb released this in the summer and I have spent the rest of the year enjoying every time I wear this. Mr. Lobb has created a perfume of abrupt tonal shifts from gourmand to prickly floral to feral beast. This is probably too much for many. I can’t get enough of it.
Tauer Perfumes Cologne du Maghreb– Andy Tauer decides to take cologne and make it something completely Tauer-like. Hr. Tauer challenged himself to create an all-natural, all-botanical cologne. The result was a wonderful bit of inspiration and imagination.
Ulrich Lang New York Aperture– Ulrich Lang has been making a habit of flying below the radar. If I had an award for most underrated perfume brand his would be one of the front runners. Aperture is another example of why this brand should be more lauded. Hr. Lang was inspired by an amazing photograph by Olivia Bee. The perfume captures all that the picture promises. This might be one of the harder perfumes on this list to find. Make the effort, you will be well-rewarded for it.
The Final Cuts: The 18 Which Just Missed the Top 25- Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale, Atelier Cologne Blanche Immortelle, Bottega Veneta Knot, Comme des Garcons Pharell Williams Girl, Dior La Collection Privee Cuir Cannage, Grandiflora Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine, Jardins D’Ecrivains Junky, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt, Juliette Has a Gun Moon Dance, Le Galion Whip, Masque Milano Tango, Mona di Orio Myrrh Casati, Ormonde Jayne Black Gold, Parfum D’Empire Corsica Furiosa, Parfums de Nicolai Cuir Cuba Intense, Parfums DelRae Wit, Providence Perfume Co. Violet Beauregarde, and Richard Luscher Britos 14oS48oE.
That’s it for 2014. Most of you will be reading this on New Year’s Eve and I want to wish all of the readers of Colognoisseur a happy and healthy 2015. I’ll be here exploring fragrance with you throughout the upcoming year. ACME just delivered my rocket-powered sneakers so maybe I'll be able to keep up this time.
Over the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to sit down with perfumer Maria Candida Gentile as she takes me through the raw ingredients in her perfumes. Her method of seeking out unique materials and crafting a fragrance around them is the epitome of what independent perfumery is all about. At Pitti Fragranze I got another master class from the master perfumer on the terroir of a particular raw material. For her latest collection of three fragrances, Kitrea, Synconium, and Leuco she has grouped them as her “Flight of the Bumblebee” (Il Volo del Calabrone) collection. Which makes sense because the linchpin ingredient in all three is beeswax with the accompanying honey. Sig.ra Gentile chose a specific source from a different country for all three perfumes. What I find particularly interesting is the beeswax sources are not interchangeable and each of these fragrances were constructed from the foundation of the particular beeswax.
Kitrea uses an Italian beeswax which Sig.ra Gentile found to have an aromatic balsamic character. From that she builds a structure of citrus and ocean. Kitrea opens with a brilliant flare of lemon and bergamot which softly settle down onto the foundation of honey and beeswax. The balsamic tinged quality forms a perfect pivot point for Sig.ra Gentile’s aquatic base. As it was with Finesterre her deftness with her marine accord gives Kitrea a wave tossed finish. Kitrea is a skillful mix of citrus and ocean all encased in a honeycomb.
Synconium uses a Spanish beeswax which carries a fabulously rich gourmand character of almond and vanilla. Sig.ra Gentile chooses to match a keynote of fig to go with this beeswax. This time the honey and beeswax are on top and they add a velvety smoothness. The gourmand qualities arise out of the treacle just in time for a very ripe fig accord to come forward. As the fig and the beeswax almost melt into one another it feels like Synconium is becoming a decadent fig tartine. Synconium stays right here for a very long time before allowing soft sandalwood to be the final addition. Synconium is a gourmand fig that is delicious and savory.
Maria Candida Gentile in her studio
Leuco uses French beeswax and this source imparts a powdery softness to the honey. This is a critical pairing because Leuco is a tuberose perfume. The French beeswax does a fantastic job of taming the tuberose; transforming it into a lush narcotic white flower which allows the wearer to come to it instead of the other way around. The honey and beeswax are on top again and the powdery aspect of the French beeswax also gives the honey a bit of unusual sweetness. The early going made me think of a pot of honey which was left next to a powder puff. The tuberose starts to meld with this and it does so brilliantly. Often when I start to smell tuberose I metaphorically plant my feet for the onslaught to come. I did the same the first time I smelled Leuco but the tuberose never became that all-encompassing floral note. Instead the French beeswax refines it and turns it into this shimmery white floral note. This has to be one of my favorite tuberose perfumes ever because of the unique way it is presented. Leuco is the best perfume Sig.ra Gentile has ever made; it is an example of a master perfumer, and an independent perfumer, working at the peak of her skill.
All three perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Once again Sig.ra Gentile has opened my eyes to the potential of using just the right ingredient in the right place. All three perfumes are beautiful but Leuco is among the best new perfumes I’ve tried this year.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Maria Candida Gentile at Pitti Fragranze.
I think I did pretty well for my first Pitti Fragranze as I tried 90 new perfumes over the three days. There were some which I had tried prior to Pitti but I don’t include those. The other thing to keep in mind is to try this many perfumes the surface area of my available skin was the most prime real estate inside the show hall. Therefore all of these impressions come from a much smaller sampling that I usually do. I can tell you all of the perfumes below will be worn extensively and duly reviewed. In alphabetical order here are the Top 10 New Fragrances from Pitti Fragranze 2014.
Aedes de Venustas Copal Azur– This literally was the very first new perfume I tried at Pitti standing outside with Francois Duquesne. He told me this was perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour’s most intense incense fragrance ever. If you love M. Duchaufour’s previous incense perfumes this is going to blow you away.
Huitieme Art Parfums Liqueur Charnelle– Pierre Guillaume’s cognac laced perfume has the feel of being in an exclusive club with a roaring fire. In one hand is a snifter. In the other a pipe ready to be lit. The surrounding wood has been buffed to leave a subtle scent in the air. I think is going to be one of my favorite winter fragrances this year.
Laboratorio Olfattivo Patchouliful– With a name like Patchouliful you might imagine perfumer Cecile Zarokian would have loaded up on the titular note. Instead Mme Zarokian goes entirely in the opposite direction with a patchouli that feels diaphanous and opaque. It has been a long time since I thought of a patchouli fragrance as light but Patchouliful carries off this style incredibly effectively.
Map of the Heart Black Heart v.2– The single most unique perfume I tried the whole weekend. This is a journey into a heart of darkness, composed of eucalyptus, black pepper, and smoke; by perfumer Jacques Huclier. The other members of this collection are going to be easier to wear but Black Heart snarls and crackles with eldritch energies as it feels like a curse is being twisted via smell. You might not want to wear it but you won’t forget it. I can’t wait to wear it.
Maria Candida Gentile Leuco– It seems like every other stand I stopped at had a new tuberose. Maria Candida Gentile found a way to rise above the crowd by pairing her tuberose with beeswax. It creates a tuberose that is luscious and soft which embraces you instead of dominating you. The magic combination of these two ingredients gives Leuco a style all of its own.
Masque Milano Russian Tea– The concept of a tea fragrance is nothing new. Even the concept of a Russian tea fragrance is nothing new. How then did perfumer Julian Rasquinet, in his last perfume as an independent perfumer, find a way to create something which uses tea as a focal point for fascinating grace notes throughout? It is like a Russian tea service in a bottle.
Olivier Durbano Promethee– Olivier Durbano has been guiding his brand with a sure aesthetic for ten years. With Promethee all of that experience has come together to result in the best fragrance within his collection. Every time I smell this I am pleased to see the level of assuredness which went into its creation. It feels like the moment of triumph as Prometheus is freed from the rock.
Peccato Originale Antidoto– You know how citrus doesn’t last? I have an antidote for that. This new perfumes from Silvia Monti has a mesmerizing intensity of citrus notes that take hours to unwind to reveal mate and rum underneath. You want a citrus to wear in the middle of winter? This is the one.
S-Perfumes Musk-S– Maybe it’s because I spent a few months writing about the different musk molecules in Olfactory Chemistry but perfumer Carlos Benaim has blended a splendid musk cocktail. There seem to be more synthetic musks here than you can shake a stick at. Once they all settle down you get the smell of sun-warmed skin underneath a linen shirt.
Zarkoperfume Molecule 234.38– Okay yes I am a sucker for any perfume which has molecule in its name. Zarko Ahlmann Pavlov the creative director and perfumer behind the entire Zarkoperfume line wanted to take a single aroma molecule of molecular weight 234.38 and let it unfold on the wearer. It is not Iso E Super it is something else but it shares that peek-a-boo quality of Iso E Super. For those who have liked the single molecule perfumes from other lines you have to add this to your collection. For the chemist it is a must have.
This was a very hard list to compile and there are another ten I have which are also great. Keep your eyes opened for upcoming reviews of all the things I brought back from my first Pitti Fragranze.