The older I get the less patience I have with the mania of holiday shopping season. Which means you won’t find me even driving by a mall this weekend. It doesn’t mean I won’t be out shopping. I prefer to support the local small businesses. Which is why my favorite day of this opening shopping weekend is Small Business Saturday.
The idea of the American Express company, in 2010, using social media and television commercials they have turned the Saturday after Black Friday into something which feels more personal. Less about doorbusters and more about opening small doors to see what is behind them.
For perfume lovers if you are fortunate enough to have a small brick and mortar perfume shop nearby this is when you should support them. They can be as diverse as the offerings from Perfumarie in New York City to American Perfumer in Louisville, Kentucky to my own local shop Arielle Shoshana in Arlington, Virginia. Each individual perfume shop is curated by the owner to reflect their community and their ability to support small brands. They are the place where our love of perfume can be expressed most openly.
Because of that diversity I am going to suggest some of the independent brands you will find in many of these stores which have had memorable releases in 2018.
The New Kid on the Block
Every year presents me with new brands which always remind me that there are still new passionate creative people who want to express that through perfume. 2018 has seen less of that although there was one which caught my nose.
Gallivant– Last year creative director Nick Steward asked us to journey through the world with our sense of smell. Amsterdam was the one which brought me to the travel agent, but it was this year’s Tokyo which had me book a trip to future destinations.
The Old Kids on the Porch
There are brands which continue to do great work year after year. They shouldn’t get lost in the rush to capture the newest trend. These are among what makes independent perfumery stand apart.
aroma M– Brooklyn-based perfumer Maria McElroy has been making perfume for years based upon the Japanese Geisha. This year’s Geisha Botan is an example of an independent perfumer who becomes better with each release.
Masque Milano– Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are usually pushing the envelope of independent perfumery. This year they went traditional by working with perfumer Fanny Bal on (homage to) Hemingway. It is a lush exploration of vetiver that is unforgettable.
Mona di Orio– Creative director Jeroen Oude Sogtoen has faithfully kept the fire burning on a style of perfume making exemplified by the late Mona di Orio. Working with Fredric Dalman this year’s Santal Nabataea is an homage to Mysore Sandalwood.
Neela Vermeire Creations– Creative director Neela Vermeire has worked exclusively with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour for all her perfumes. The perfumes of Indian and French influences have always impressed. The depth of the collaboration was never as evident as it was in this year’s release, Niral.
Providence Perfume Co.- Perfumer Charna Ethier is one of the treasures of the independent perfume world. 2018 has seen three outstanding releases in Vientiane, Lemon Liada, and Sedona Sweetgrass. Rarely do three perfumes show this breadth of creativity. This is on top of a collection of quiet excellence throughout.
The Strange Kids
The other great thing about independent perfumery is the ability to freely experiment. Gone are focus groups, replaced by individual vision. The perfumes here will have you reassessing what perfume is all about.
Zoologist Perfumes– The brand created by Victor Wong has been one of the great stories of the last couple of years. In 2018 there was a bold choice to strike out toward perfumes which provided more individual effect. Working with perfumer Sven Pritzkoleit, Hyrax explored what kind of perfume you can make from hyraceum. With perfumer Antonio Gardoni they asked what a prehistoric jungle smelled like just after the meteor set it on fire in Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Blackbird– Seattle-based Nicole Miller has overseen one of my favorite experimental brands; Blackbird. She is just the right kind of strange for my tastes. Nowhere was that more evident in the skanky banana that was Y06-S. although it reminded me of my organic chemistry lab. Par for the course on the odd side of the street.
DSH Perfumes– You might think adding the brand from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz to this category doesn’t fit. I chose to add her here because hers is one of those minds which can’t stop when it comes to perfume. she is the experimentalist always trying to find new ways to say perfume things. In 2018 Summer Cologne is as good an example of that as any of the rest of her excellent releases this year.
Hopefully the weather is nice enough this year for you to take a walk away from the mall and through the door of your local perfumery on Small Business Saturday.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the brands mentioned.