Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Part 1- Overview

This past year in perfume was a great one. One of the best since I have been writing about perfume. Part of the reason is what I wrote about in the prologue yesterday. It was the best year ever for independent perfumery. I tried 734 new perfumes in this calendar year. When I look at the bottom of my spreadsheet to see that number it kind of chills me to realize I smelled that many. I knew it was a great year when I put together my first draft of perfumes I wanted to consider for these columns. I ended up with 75 fragrances on that list. 10% of everything I tried was memorable. It speaks to the quality that is out there to be found.

When I say this was the best year for independent perfumery it does not meant that it was a bad year for the mainstream. On the contrary there were some amazing releases from the big brands. Regular readers are tired of my extolling Gucci Memoire d’une Odeur for its fearlessness, but it deserves the recognition. Hermes Un Jardin sur la Lagune stood out for the change in style as Christine Nagel created a more introverted garden which appealed to me. Olivier Polge extended the Les Eaux de Chanel with Paris-Riviera. Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere is the kind of crazy summer flanker I wish we saw more of. Finally, Guerlain has their yearly reminder they aren’t a spent creative force with the magical Embruns D’Ylang.

Christian Astuguevieille

To my great pleasure Comme des Garcons laid down a fantastic reminder of why they haven’t lost their innovative style after 25 years of doing fragrance. The fall saw six new Comme des Garcons releases under the creative guidance of Christian Astuguevieille. They were a reminder of everything this brand continues to do well. From the collaboration with Monocle for Scent Four: Yoyogi. To the neon pink of Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet. The three new Series 10 Clash perfumes, each a study in synthetic contrasts. Ending with the metallic chameleon of Copper. So many of the brands which sparked my interest in artistic perfume have lost the plot I am thankful M. Astuguevieille hasn’t.

Barbara Hermann

This year saw the ultimate transformation of bloggers into creative directors. I think it is easy to convince yourself that if you write about perfume it is a small step to creating it. There have been a few examples this year of how untrue that is. The three who succeeded put in the hard work necessary to see their vision through to a perfume. Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes released four in 2019 all wildly different. Barbara Hermann evolved her brand Eris Parfums into her best release to date Mxxx. Arielle Weinberg has made the transition from blogger to store owner to creative director putting in the time to make each endeavor succeed. Arielle Shoshana Sunday was part of a new breed of gourmands for 2019.

The new gourmands all seemed to be inspired by hot beverages. Arielle Shoshana Sunday by matcha horchata. Floral Street Ylang-Ylang Espresso is an exotic drink of dark coffee and exuberant floral. Ineke Jaipur Chai finds the gentle harmony in the blend of ingredients in chai as a perfume. Cocoa plays a starring role in Curata Dulceo and Eris Parfums Mxxx.

Caroline Dumur

I met fantastic new perfumers for the first time through their work. Caroline Dumur did two of the new Comme des Garcons; Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet and Clash: Chlorophyll Gardenia. Along with her work for Masque Milano Love Kills she has become one to watch. Scottish perfumer Euan McCall impressed me with his work for Senyoko. La Tsarine is a perfume unafraid to go deep into carnality. Contrast that with his work on Migration de L’Arbre which captures the outdoors vibrantly. Shawn Maher of Chatillon Lux was another new name who impressed me with his skill at evoking all that his St. Louis home can give to perfume.

Michael Edwards

Of everything I experienced this year it was a book which has altered my perspective most. Michael Edwards released Perfume Legends II in September. I devoured it over a week. Mr. Edwards has spoken publicly that the revered perfume houses like Guerlain, Chanel, or Dior were the niche perfumes of their day. Though the 52 perfumes covered in the book you realize the era of modern perfumery from Fougere Royale to Portrait of a Lady has always reflected the best of what perfume has to give. It made me view perfumery with a new foundation. It is why I think 2019 has been so good.

Join me tomorrow as I name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.

Sunday, I make a list of my favorite non-perfume things of the year.

Monday, I will have the Top 25 new perfumes of 2019.

Tuesday, I look forward to what I hope to see in 2020.

Until then.

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

Book Review: Perfume Legends II by Michael Edwards

I was busy queuing up my Labor Day weekend binge viewing when a delivery truck arrived. Little did I know the next two weeks I would be binge reading what was in the box.

For perfume to be fully embraced as the art form I believe it to be we need to have the history of modern perfumery chronicled somewhere. I have always known it existed within the mind of Michael Edwards. Having had the fortune to hear him speak as well as spend time with him he has been the conduit to much of what I understand about the art of modern perfumery. I have spent hours listening to him and always left wanting more. He has now granted my wish by publishing “Perfume Legends II”.

Michael Edwards

If you are wondering where “Perfume Legends I” is you missed it, most likely. Mr Edwards published the first edition in 1996. It came out right as the independent niche perfume trends were arriving. Publishing “Perfume Legends II” twenty-three years later has allowed for the perspective of that growth of independent perfumery to also be included. All the content from the first edition has been further researched and elaborated upon. Along with the addition of the more recent legends.

“Perfume Legends II” covers the entire history of modern perfumery from the first modern perfume 1886’s “Fougere Royale” through to 2010’s “Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady”. Sandwiched in between are fifty more perfumes. Each chapter covers the time of when the perfume is released, the composition of the perfume, and the creation of the bottle as well as the reason it is a legend.

It is a remarkable collection of the history of perfume in one place. Each chapter feeds off what came before. It displays the evolution of perfume as a commercial product as well as a reflection of society. One of the most fascinating parts of the book was the history of the bottle. I have said many times I don’t care about the bottle just give me the perfume. After finishing the book I have a new appreciation for the container.

The most fascinating of these was the fraught creation of the bottle for YSL Opium in 1982. Bottle designer Pierre Dinand would be challenged to accommodate changes requested by Yves St. Laurent as they were nearing release. Once you read the story you will never look at a bottle of Opium the same way. It is true of most of the bottles written about. I still care more about the perfume but I have newfound respect for the bottle.

If there is a drawback it is that the volume is focused on French perfumes. It really isn’t one because Mr. Edwards is able to make his larger point within the smaller dataset. It also becomes less French and more global as the Legends reach the 1970’s and beyond because of the global reach of the brands.

I presume anyone reading this blog is a perfume lover. You need to put a copy of “Perfume Legends II” on your bookshelf. It will give you a deeper belief in the artistry behind modern perfumery.

Disclosure: this review is based on a copy provided by the publisher.

Mark Behnke