The Perfumers Who Saved Christmas

Back in March when I wrote an editorial on “Perfume in the Time of Coronavirus” I was enjoying the quarantine. I expected it to end in a few months. I was taking the opportunity to enjoy my favorite perfumes with abandon. Each one gave me a shot of needed joy.

As we got to the summer and I was still inside I needed a different kind of booster through fragrance. That came as I spent ten days participating in the Pierre Benard Challenge. This was a big change in perspective for me as I hadn’t examined my connection to scent as deeply. I’m always looking for new things to try. For two weeks I stopped and smelled the world.

Then we got to the fall and the end was not in sight. It was wearing on my mental state. I felt like things would never return to normal. Then a magical thing happened courtesy of some of my favorite independent perfumers. They got me out of my funk because their new releases connected with great memories of my past. I was no longer hemmed in by the four walls of my house.

Frassai El Descanso reminded me of my first cross-country drive as I experienced the wheat fields of the prairie.

DSH Perfumes Tea and Charcoal brought me back to when I discovered a coping mechanism as a child.

Aether Arts Perfume Dia de Muerto had me trick or treating on a tropical S. Florida night.

Maher Olfactive Orris Forest had me hopping over rocks on a hike through the forest.

DSH Perfumes Adrenaline and Scorched Earth put me back on the hiking trail in Yellowstone.

Maher Olfactive Tempo Rubato reminded me of a music lesson in a St. Louis jazz club.

Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Madeleine had me sitting at a tearoom with cakes and hot chocolate.

Imaginary Authors A Whiff of Wafflecone had me in a specialty ice cream shoppe

DSH Perfumes Couverture d’Hiver had the Florida boy remembering his first New England snowstorm.

All of these and more took me out of my quarantine and into the world through the trigger of perfume. It isn’t the design of a perfumer to make their customer find joy through memory. Although it isn’t an undesired side effect.

Now that we do see the beginning of the end, I am full of hope for the next year. If it weren’t for Irina Burlakova, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Amber Jobin, Shawn Maher, Fanny Bal, and Josh Meyer this would have been a dreary Holiday season. They were the perfumers who saved Christmas for me.

I extend my wishes to all my readers for a Merry Christmas. That I have you is another reason this Season remains merry for me.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maher Olfactive Tempo Rubato- The Orris Butter Blues

On one of my visits to St. Louis for a scientific meeting we spent an evening out listening to jazz. Along with me was an old friend and his wife. She is a professor of music who I affectionately call Dr. Rubato. The nickname came out of this evening thirtysomething years ago. One of my favorite jazz songs is “St. James Infirmary Blues”. If the band is taking requests, I always ask for it. On this night we were treated to a fantastic rendition. The stand-up bass player was the one who really stood out. In my amateurish way I said I really enjoyed the way he altered the rhythm during his solo. My learned musical friend said that was called tempo rubato. She explained to me it is a section of music where the soloist has the freedom to create their own tempo; faster, slower or both. As I’ve mentioned there are words and phrases which just feel good while I pronounce them. Tempo rubato allowed me to elongate the vowels, roll the r, separate the syllables. Performing my own linguistic version of the term. Independent perfumer Shawn Maher wanted to make a perfume based on this. Maher Olfactive Tempo Rubato is the result.

Shawn Maher

Mr. Maher lives in St. Louis which gives my opening story a bit of resonance to the perfume he created. He was also jazz inspired but his is the vocals of Billie Holiday as he relates in the accompanying Scent Notes blog post. Her vocal range allowed her to really employ tempo rubato in a singular way. He wanted to use the multi-faceted ingredient of orris butter to fashion a perfume of varying moods. He seems to be having a lot of fun playing with different shadings of his ingredients. Like an improvisational perfumer performing to his own tempo.

He begins with his main theme a floral accord built upon the orris butter. If you read the blog post, you will see all the nuance he builds into this. For me it is primarily the orris and narcissus which take the lead. There are a lot of other floral ingredients, but it is galbanum which provides a solid green backbeat for the orris and narcissus to improvise against. Jasmine adds a bass line to the green floral accord. Out of this a fabulously odd apricot comes out in a solo which captures the attention of the rest of the combo. A leather accord picks up the tune while stretching the beat out just a little. This is another accord built upon many precise pieces as Mr. Maher moves up and down his perfume keyboard finding just the right note. As it fully forms you have the orris-narcissus-galbanum accord finding harmony with the leather accord. Both play together until it all fades away.

Tempo Rubato has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I’ve glossed over a lot of the work Mr. Maher put into his accords. For those who are interested in the way perfume accords are built I refer you again to the blog post. One of the reasons I didn’t get lost in all of that is because the perfume is like listening to my favorite jazz. I just want to sit back and let it wash pleasantly over me. Although I have given this perfume my own name because Dr. Rubato has already taken the one on the bottle. I call it “The Orris Butter Blues”.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Maher Olfactive.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maher Olfactive Orris Forest- Hopping from Stone to Stone

When it comes to aquatic scents they are almost always set at a beach on the ocean. Perfumers have explored every variation, and then some, of this. It has always seemed curious to me why so few have tried to make a freshwater version. I’ve spent my share of time next to lakes and streams as well as beaches. There is a scent to both places. It is up to the independent perfume community to satisfy my desire for this. One who has already provided it previously is Shawn Maher. He is back with a different take in Maher Olfactive Orris Forest.

The previous aquatic by Mr. Maher which I enjoyed was Chatillon Lux Admiral. That was a perfume of the Mississippi River which flows through his hometown of St. Louis. For Orris Forest he turns inward to the smaller creeks that feed the larger.

Shawn Maher

In the accompanying Scent Notes post for Orris Forest Mr. Maher is inspired by childhood visits to his grandmother. She lived outside of the city in a place where the country has overtaken the urban. He tells of the joys of youth climbing hills and stomping through the brooks. The ingredient which provided the stimulus to send his mind back was orris butter. It is an unusual association and one I have never made. Mr. Maher saw the nucleus of a contemporary fougere in it.

To do this he focused on the carroty-earthy nature of orris, which is the way I see it. He looks at that and sees the foundation for a fougere accord. To fully form that he uses a set of ingredients to create a watery lichen on wet stone scent profile. He lists a dozen pieces but violet leaf and cypriol are the linchpins. He uses a couple of orris synthetics to ground the natural material more firmly in the earth. When it comes together this is the scent of my hiking boots hopping from green encrusted stone to the other across a brook. Once I reach the other side Mr. Maher delicately inserts the berries, flowers, and woods. There is a hint of raspberry. A more present set of florals in jasmine and lavender. The woods come through a richly terpenic pinon oil. This calls back to a similar undertone in the opening accord closing the loop.

Orris Forest has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Maher has now made his second iteration of a freshwater aquatic. This is as fresh and clean as any one set at the beach. I prefer being reminded of crossing a flowing stream from one stepping stone to the next surrounded by an entirely different aquatic perfume experience.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Maher Olfactive.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chatillon Lux Confluence- When Three Become One

I have a whole list of favorite words that I like using. One of them is confluence. I use the phrase “confluence of events” a lot. Maybe too much, I’ll have to ask Mrs. C. I like the flow of the word in my mouth as the hard first syllable flows into the other two. Which means when I received my sample of Chatillon Lux Confluence I was hooked already.

Shawn Maher

Shawn Maher the independent perfumer behind Chatillon Lux has always used his St. Louis home base as inspiration. For Confluence he uses its reason for being as the place where the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers come together. This is the definition of confluence as two flowing water sources merge into one. One of the most memorable ones I have encountered was while rafting the Grand Canyon. Where the Little Colorado River meets the Colorado River there is a fascinating effect. The bright turquoise water of the tributary plumes outward into the dark green of the main artery. The place of meeting is a kinetic experience. Mr. Maher makes Confluence brim with that same energy.

As he says in his Scent Notes post on his website, he was looking to marry incense and conifers. He does this through a series of scented confluences as two primary sources of each become one. It makes Confluence a perfume of hard and soft syllables finding a flow.

It first comes to life with an energetic citrus accord. The “con” syllable. Mr. Maher uses ginger to tap the citric tuning fork of his ingredients. It forms an accord with a buzzing harmonic. The “flu” syllable comes through a set of two types of frankincense. To allow them to come together he uses elemi to smooth the transition. It also allows it to connect to that citrusy first syllable. “Ence” comes from a mixture of woods mainly black spruce and fir balsam. Juniper is the chaperone at the conjunction of both. Again it helps to call back to the previous two syllables. After they are all together citrus, resins, and woods form their own confluence.

Confluence has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Maher has made everything about this perfume the definition of its name. Each accord flows into itself until they all form a beautiful whole. That’s what happens when three become one.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Chatillon Lux.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maher Olfactive Treachery- A Weighted Blanket

The prevalence of weighted blankets has taken off. The idea is the feeling of light pressure underneath a soft blanket is comforting. It is the weight itself which adds the security. There is something to the hypothesis that heavier is more soothing. The same holds true for perfume. When you think to yourself which perfumes provide a cozy feeling they are centered around the heavier perfume notes. The latest from independent perfumer Shawn Maher, Maher Olfactive Treachery, explores this.

Shawn Maher

I think for the first time the name has nothing to do with his St. Louis home. In his Scent Notes column he says the name came from the painting by Rene Magritte; “Treachery of Images”. That piece is the depiction of a pipe with the phrase “this is not a pipe”. Mr. Maher wanted to name this perfume that, but it had already been used by another perfume. He ended up going back to the name and just using Treachery. I don’t think the name does it justice. In his column about Treachery he says, “I wanted something comforting” That is a better introduction to the perfume in the bottle.

He starts with two of the most classic perfume ingredients known for being comfortable, vanilla and tobacco. He uses a rich tobacco absolute which captures you in its narcotic embrace as vanilla absolute soothes your brow. Whenever I cook with vanilla, I am struck by the boozy scent of it. Mr. Maher amplifies that with a barrel-aged whisky accord to pick that up. He then changes the tobacco from the dried leaf in the barn to a fruit-flavored version from the tobacconist. An infusion of berries creates a pouch of decadence. This gets pushed even further in that direction with a cocoa powder to dust the entire thing. This is the slightly bitter analog to Dutch Process Cocoa used to bake with. At this point you are enveloped in pipe tobacco, vanilla, a glass of whiskey, and a bar of chocolate. My kind of comfort. There are some woods later on, but they mainly provide framing.

Treachery has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.

Treachery belongs to my “wall of scent” category. It doesn’t so much develop as erect a structure which holds together for hours. This is one of those perfumes that will stay with you for more than a day. It is a good thing that being surrounded by Treachery is the same as being under a weighted blanket, happy comfort.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Maher Olfactive.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chatillon Lux La Petite Prairie- The Scent of Wide-Open Spaces

It should be no secret at this point how impressed I am by independent perfumer Shawn Maher. Over the last year, or so, I have found each new release by him to be a joy to experience. Looking back I think there are two significant parts to his vision. One of them comes from where he lives. All his perfumes have come from the local history surrounding his home of St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Maher has taken the classic tropes of modern perfumery and translated them through a Midwestern prism. The other component is his knowledge, and use of, his perfume ingredients. With each new release Mr. Maher allows anyone who is interested to understand the interaction and purpose of the pieces within the fragrance they have in their hand. In Chatillon Lux La Petite Prairie vetiver is given the chance to be re-conceptualized by Mr. Maher.

Shawn Maher

My first encounter with vetiver as a perfume had me swooning over the green grassy piece of the multi-faceted ingredient. It is an ingredient that also carries a specific profile due to where it comes from. It is also surrounded with a number of synthetic alternatives. It allows for a perfumer willing to experiment the opportunity to create a vetiver accord which carries a singular effect.

La Petite Prairie is named for a piece of rolling farmland and grasslands on the edge of the city. When I visited the great prairie on my cross-country drives, I was struck at how the grass smelled different. There was a sharper edge to the green along with a flintier earthiness. As I was thinking about La Petite Prairie, vetiver is an ideal ingredient to capture this quality of terroir indigenous to St. Louis. I again provide the link to Mr. Maher’s Scent Notes on this perfume for those who want to know more about its construction.

Mr. Maher constructs a vetiver base accord of Haitian and Javanese natural vetiver. He then titrates in precise amounts of synthetic vetiver sources. It creates what I would dub a “prairie accord”. More grassy then woody. It is evident from the first moments. In the top accord a citrusy rhubarb picks out the same quality in the natural vetivers. It acts like the reflection of sunlight off the prairie grass. The green is picked up by two green florals in geranium and carnation. I adored the contrast. It reminded me of the classic vetiver perfumes that define this style of fragrance. In the later stages that flinty earth is represented by Iso E Super over a resinous trio of elemi, myrrh, and styrax.

La Petite Prairie has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

For anyone who loves the classic vetiver perfumes of the past this is a must try. You will find aspects of many of them given a new perspective. It is a gift Mr. Maher has, to achieve this time and again. I also want to speak to the community of wetshavers out there, too. This is a fantastically bracing vetiver. The shaving line of this scent will be coming soon. I will definitely be adding it to my shaving cabinet. It is just the tonic I crave after shaving. It provides the scent of wide-open spaces.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Chatillon Lux.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maher Olfactive Crystal Moon- Under the Pale Moonlight

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The joy of writing about perfume is I never know when I will find a new voice. A little over a year ago I was sent a perfume by independent perfumer Shawn Maher. Over the ensuing months I have come to believe he is one of the best young perfumers we have. There is a dedication to formulating his compositions that is admirable. You can enjoy his perfumes because they smell great. If you are a perfume geek, he will give you a peek behind the curtain with his extensive blog posts about his perfumes. He offers you his fragrances to enjoy at the level you choose. His brand has been Chatillon Lux since the beginning but that is about to change. On April 28th, his birthday, a new brand Maher Olfactive will debut.

Shawn Maher

Maher Olfactive is the place where Mr. Maher will work in smaller batches with more precious materials. When he told me about this at the beginning of March I was quite enthused. Coming on the heels of his limited edition for American Perfumer, Madame Chouteau, this sounded like an extension of that. To further sharpen my expectations he told me the first new release was going to feature osmanthus. Long-time readers will know my affection for that. I began heading to the mailbox hoping the sample would be there. When Maher Olfactive Crystal Moon arrived, I was given a new perspective on a favorite note.

As always Mr. Maher has published an extensive Scent Notes column which you can find here. His inspiration came from the story of Princess Chang’e who was banished to a crystal palace on the moon. Her companion was gardener Wu Gang who had the never-ending task of trimming back the osmanthus tree next to the palace to keep it from overgrowing it. Mr. Maher uses that inspiration to form a perfume where the osmanthus is impaled on a shaft of moonlight.

Osmanthus is a two-sided ingredient one side is apricot-like the other is leathery. It is just this which causes my affection for it. In the hands of my favorite perfumers I enjoy seeing which part they amplify. In the case of Crystal Moon it is the apricot side which rises.

To achieve this Mr. Maher uses a set of fruity complements. From the early moments the apricot nature of osmanthus is given a more expansive presence through these ingredients. While I always mention the apricot, osmanthus is also a flower. Mr. Maher reminds us of that with a lavender oil made only of the flowers. jonquil adds more flower power. It makes for a rounding effect even while the apricot stays on top. Now the moonlight glows by creating an expansive amber accord the keynote of which is a patchouli synthetic derivative called Clearwood. It forms an accord of diffuse luminescence which adds an appealing opacity overlaying the osmanthus. The base is a clever accord of hinoki, galbanum, juniper, and tincture of Yirgacheffe coffee. This provides an incense-like effect as if a brazier is burning in the crystal palace as we keep up our battle with the burgeoning osmanthus tree. It is a lovely reminder of the inspiration for the perfume.

Crystal Moon has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Crystal Moon will take its place next to two earlier Chatillon Lux releases, Nefertiti, and Santal Auster, as the founding collection of Maher Olfactive. All three display Mr. Maher’s precocious talent. None better than the osmanthus under the pale moonlight of Crystal Moon.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Maher Olfactive.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Shawn Maher for American Perfumer Madame Chouteau- St. Louis Sister

If there was one thing I wanted from a store dedicated to American independent perfumery it was limited editions. When owner Dave Kern contacted me two years ago to announce he was opening American Perfumer in Louisville, KY it was the first thing I asked him. He politely replied it was in his plans but first he had a store to open. It didn’t take long. By the end of 2018 he had released two limited editions from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and Maria McElroy. Ms. Hurwitz’s perfume, Colorado, won the 2019 Art & Olfaction Award for best independent perfume. Hans Hendley followed with last year’s ode to his Texas home, Bloodline. One commonality of all three was the use of a special rare ingredient. Long time readers know how much I enjoy the aspect of independent perfumery where a one-of-a-kind ingredient leads to a singular perfume. The oil Ms. McElroy used to build her entry Desert Flower let her connect the desert near Marrakech and the one she grew up near in Utah. All these first three releases were perfumes tied deeply to the perfumer’s heritage and location. Of the newer American independent perfumers Shawn Maher of Chatillon Lux has been designing his entire brand around his roots in the St. Louis, MO community he lives in. Mr. Maher has been one of the most exciting new perfumers I have encountered in years. You can imagine my excitement when just after the New Year Mr. Kern and Mr. Maher contacted me to announce the upcoming release of Shawn Maher for American Perfumer Madame Chouteau.

American Perfumer in Louisville, KY

Mr. Maher when left to his own vision has delved deeply into the history of his hometown. As he spoke with Mr. Kern they remarked they both live in cities named after French King Louis. There is a pervasive French style underpinning this area of the country the US had to eventually purchase from France. Madame Chouteau pays homage to one of the founders of the city of St. Louis with a perfume which calls back to the classic French origins of modern perfumery through an American perspective.

Shawn Maher

Madame Chouteau would co-found the trading post which would be the cornerstone of the city with Pierre Laclede Liguest. She lied about being a widow so she could have the standing in male society it provided, which was little. It was enough for her to use what she had to get what she wanted.

Mr. Maher releases a Scent Notes column on his website for most of his releases. The one on Madame Chouteau, linked here, mentions how he would construct a perfume using ingredients he was using for the first time. It is a fabulous peek behind the curtain for those who want to know more.

Madame Chouteau opens with an exquisite apricot accord. Most of the time apricot appears as a dried fruit in perfume. Mr. Maher rehydrates his apricot with the use of the aromachemicals which provide rose their depth, damascenones. This turns the early moments into a photorealistic apricot. This is the American perspective on the French traditions I mentioned. This is an apricot which is full of life instead of abstractly desiccated. Jasmine provides the floral counterweight as Mr. Maher combines three natural sources with a Hedione analog for lift. It is the expansiveness from that which gives the jasmine a weightlessness that allows them to float above the apricot while still retaining the complexity of the natural oils. The French-American collaboration reaches its zenith in what Mr. Maher calls his “Mousse de Saint Louis” base. Inspired by the classic Mousse de Saxe base. To go from Saxe to Saint Louis he adds a dirtier vanilla to act like the muddy Mississippi running through the atranol-free oakmoss with orris and leather completing it. The final ingredient is genuine Mysore sandalwood in all its gorgeous glory providing the proper pedestal for Madame Chouteau to stand upon.

Madame Chouteau has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I was such a lazy writer that my reviews of the previous American Perfumer limited editions came after they were sold out. Not this time. At 3PM EST this Saturday February 15 the 25 bottles of this amazing perfume will go on sale. It is another outstanding entry in this series.

As I learned more of Madame Chouteau, Annie Lennox’s voice through the Eurythmics song “Sisters are Doin’ it for Themselves” played in my head. I especially heard the couplet, “Standin’ on their own two feet/And ringin’ on their own bells”. The perfume in her name does just that. With a French accent and an American fist in the air Madame Chouteau was a St. Louis Sister doin’ it for herself.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by American Perfumer.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

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In Part 1 I took a wide view of the year in perfume that was 2019. Today I get very specific naming the very best of the year in four categories.

Perfume of the Year: Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse– Last year when I was doing my end of year summaries I had never heard of St. Louis-based independent perfumer Shawn Maher and his Chatillon Lux brand. I would catch up over 2019. Mr. Maher is representative of what makes independent perfumery special. He creates perfumes which reflect his hometown’s history and geography. I have enjoyed everything he has released this year. It was his last release of the year Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse that captured my attention most fully of any new perfume I tried this year.

One of the things which has drawn me to Mr. Maher is he shares his process through posts on the Chatillon Lux website. What these entries reveal is a perfumer who understands the materials he is using. He goes deep into the effect each ingredient has on the finished product. You can read the one for Weinstrasse here.

Weinstrasse was inspired by the Germans who migrated to St. Louis and began vineyards. What Weinstrasse captures are the smells of the late harvest. It begins from a clever accord of grapes on the vine using green cognac oil and blackcurrant bud. One thing I marvel at each time I wear Weinstrasse is the way Mr. Maher captures the glow of a late autumn sun. Many perfumes inspired by wine have a claustrophobic feeling. Mr. Maher creates a perfume with a golden glow of muted sunlight. It opens up the entire composition. In that blog post Mr. Maher wanted Weinstrasse to be his version of a fougere. The base is an overdose of the ingredient which defined the beginning of modern perfumery; coumarin. It adds that classic fougere-ish vibe without going fully into it. It fits surprisingly well with everything that has come before.

I believe Mr. Maher is a special talent who is only at the beginning of creating his perfumes. He will have a difficult time making a better perfume than Weinstrasse my choice for Perfume of the Year for 2019.

Perfumer of the Year: Cristiano Canali- Perfumer Cristiano Canali provided brilliant bookends for 2019. In January I was enthralled with Rubini Tambour Sacre only to be equally engaged by Zoologist Bee in December. Sig. Canali is not one of the most prolific or well-known perfumers. He has a layered style of making perfume that requires the right concept to allow it to flourish.

Working with Andrea Rubini and a talented creative team at Rubini Sig. Canali translated the sound of sacred drums from the Horn of Africa into a gorgeous composition in Tambour Sacre. Collaborating with Victor Wong of Zoologist for Bee he created a perfume of multiple layers of honey without falling into the places where honey can be difficult. He successfully traveled the tightrope necessary to make Bee memorable.

This became an easy choice because he was the only perfumer to create two of the ten perfumes I was considering for Perfume of the Year. That is why Cristiano Canali is the Perfumer of the Year for 2019.

Runner-Ups: Mandy Aftel, Antonio Gardoni, Olivia Giacobetti, Christophe Laudamiel, and Shawn Maher.

Creative Director(s) of the Year: Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano– There have been no creative direction in all of perfumery better than that provided by Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano. For the past six years they have followed a formula of working with the best young talented perfumers. Also giving them a brief and the latitude they wouldn’t find elsewhere to create one of the best collections you can find. The two perfumes released in 2019 continued that. Early in the year they worked with Vanina Muracciole to create a reconstructed chypre in Kintsugi. At the end of the year perfumer Caroline Dumur produced an elegiac rose rife with poignancy in Love Kills. Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi have consistently pushed independent perfumery to new heights while serving the young rising stars. For this and the perfume they oversaw in 2019 they are the Creative Directors of the Year for 2019.

Runner-ups: Christian Astuguevieille of Comme des Garcons, Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre d’Orange, Jan Ewoud Vos of Puredistance, and Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes.

Brand of the Year: Zoologist Perfumes– It is a modern miracle what Victor Wong has achieved with his brand Zoologist Perfumes. He is another creative director who seems to get the most out of his collaborators. In 2019 he worked with Joseph DeLapp on Dodo, Daniel Pescio on Chameleon, Celine Barel on Squid, and Cristiano Canali on Bee. No two of those perfumes are like the other. Mr. Wong has created a brand which has consistently impressed but 2019 was the best year they have had creatively. That is why Zoologist Perfumes is the Brand of the Year for 2019.

Runner-Ups: Aftelier Perfumes, Chatillon Lux, Comme des Garcons, and Masque Milano.

Part 1 is my broad overview of 2019.

The Top 25 will be published on Monday December 30.

Mark Behnke

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