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.
This year I tried 678 new perfumes which once again keeps me below the 50% mark of all new perfumes released in 2017. When sniffing this many perfumes there tends to be a lot of background noise as many coalesce into a generic sameness. What is presented below are the perfumes which rise above that.
The Top 5 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)
5. DSH Perfumes Gekkou Hanami– Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz never fails to surprise me in a given year. In 2017 she has had many releases worthy of high praise. I was completely blown away by this first in her Haiku Series. Ms. Hurwitz builds a perfume of delicacy around themes of life and death in the moonlight infused with cherry blossoms. Both of the other Haiku series released this year; Tsukiyo-en and Tsukimi were almost as good.
4. Parfum D’Empire La Cri de La Lumiere– A spectrally transparent study of light as fragrance. Perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato uses a trio of ambrette, iris, and rose to form a perfume which will define light when I speak of it in relation to this art form in the future.
3. Naomi Goodsir Nuit de Bakelite– The creative direction of Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier matched with the virtuosity of perfumer Isabelle Doyen provided the best tuberose of 2017. Their choice to focus on the green stemmy quality by editing out the flower they found something within which reinvents tuberose.
2. Bruno Fazzolari Feu Secret– What do you do when you decide to make a perfume from one of the most expensive ingredients you can? If you’re independent perfumer Bruno Fazzolari you take orris butter and challenge it with “dirty” notes like turmeric, birch tar, and eucalyptus. They don’t harmonize, they confront. What orris butter has to say in response is what makes Feu Secret special.
1. Ineke Idyllwild– A more detailed reason can be found in Part 2. Idyllwild is a contemporary fougere that pairs expertise and artistry. Ineke Ruhland is back after five years in a big way.
Here are the rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order
Aftelier Velvet Tuberose– After smelling so many tuberoses the last one of the year was one of the best. Mandy Aftel found the softer texture within.
April Aromatics Pink Wood– Independent perfumer Tanja Bochnig created this dynamic rose perfume for a competition where she finished third! Simply inconceivable to me.
Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio Azahares– The best of the collection from creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux produced for a Mexican department store. Orange blossom, lavender, and iris show Sr. Flores-Roux’s brilliance with floral ingredients.
Atelier Cologne Café Tuberosa– Creative director Sylvie Cervasel and perfumer Jerome Epinette pour a shot of rich esperesso over a full spectrum tuberose to fabulous effect.
Comme des Garcons Vogue 125– A mixture of Polaroid developer and cigarette smoke might not conjure the premiere fashion magazine in the world. That’s the genius of this perfume which never plays it safe while it makes sure both names on the label stand for innovation.
Grandiflora Boronia– Creative director Saskia Havekes working with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour capture an Australian greenhouse with an indigenous white flower providing the keynote.
Imaginary Authors O! Unknown– Josh Meyer has gotten better and better; this is his best perfume. He finds a precise balance between a transparent tea accord and orris butter. Easy to write, much harder to realize.
John Varvatos Artisan Pure– Best mainstream perfume of the year. Rodrigo Flores-Roux adds to his legacy as the only perfumer for John Varvatos with a tableau of a summer hillside in Mexico.
Masque Milano Times Square– HBO’s series “The Deuce” reminded us of 1970’s era Times Square. I had already had my memory revived with this perfume from creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi working with perfumer Bruno Jovanovic. A fantastic realization of this time period.
Memo Eau de Memo– Creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet celebrated ten years of making perfume together by not looking back. Instead they launched the second decade with what they do best make some of the best niche perfume around.
Puredistance Warszawa– Creative director Jan Ewoud Vos was shown pictures of the Golden Age in Warsaw. Perfumer Antoine Lie turned this into the best Retro Nouveau perfume of 2017.
Vero Profumo Naja– Last year I made a wish for a new perfume from Vero Kern. Naja did not disappoint as it was an ever-developing tobacco focused construct. It was easily the perfume I have had the most fun dissecting this year.
Vilhelm Parfumerie Basilico & Fellini– Creative director Jan Ahlgren continues to look to Hollywood for inspiration. Famed director’s Frederico Fellini’s love of basil was turned into a Nouveau Cologne by perfumer Jerome Epinette. Refreshing and innovative just like the name on the bottle.
Xinu Monstera– Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux found a kindred spirit in creative director Veronica Alejandra Pena. Monstera is the best of that collaboration as the scent of the leaves in the jungle slowly change into leather.
Zoologist Civet– First new perfume of 2017 was another triumph for creative director Victor Wong who had independent perfumer Shelley Waddington begin the year of tuberose with one of the most memorable. They fused it with animalic notes in the heart to create magic.
The Final Cuts (The Other 25 best perfumes of 2017)
When Mrs. C and I moved out to farm country six years ago I was worried about how I would handle it. My wife and I are the reverse of Green Acres, she loves the fresh air and I want Fifth Avenue. After seventeen years of urban living in Boston it was her turn to have the lifestyle she wanted. Surprisingly I have come to love this life. Much of it is because of the farms which surround us and the relationships we have with all of them. As a result, I have become more intimately acquainted with the source of the food I eat. One of those foods is honey. I have gone to the hives and seen the honey being harvested. There is a fantastic scent of the raw honey as it comes off the beeswax of the hive in viscous sheets. That has been captured as a perfume in Sonoma Scent Studio Bee’s Bliss.
One of the things I’ve learned about honey is it has a strong scent of the source of flower nectar that the bees have been harvesting. It is fabulous as the floral quality leaps out of the sticky liquid. The honey that is in your local supermarket is blended from many sources and so this quality is diminished. When you get honey directly from the hive you know where most of the nectar has come from.
Laurie Erickson the perfumer behind Sonoma Scent Studio must have also had the same opportunity living out in Sonoma Valley in California. In California, orange blossom or mimosa are going to be one of the main sources of nectar for the bees meaning the raw honey Ms. Erickson might be familiar with should carry those floral scents within. That is where Ms. Erickson starts with Bee’s Bliss keeping it very simple.
It is the mixture of mimosa and orange blossom that comes first. Then as if the bees are carrying the nectar back to the hive it slowly is subsumed in a sweet honey matrix. In this early phase Bee’s Bliss is a soft sweetly floral ride. Another thing I’ve learned form the local hives is there is a substance called Propolis which the bees use as caulk for the gaps in the hive. That comes from the sap of the local trees and smells very green. Ms. Erickson’s fragrance equivalent is vetiver modulated with oakmoss. This is where the smell of harvesting honey comes through to me. For the base Ms. Erickson takes inspiration from the color of fresh honey as waves of amber and benzoin finish Bee’s Bliss.
Bee’s Bliss has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Living in the country I have come to appreciate the simple pleasures; Bee’s Bliss is one of those with its sunny personality. Despite that it is simple it is an excellently realized perfume of the hive. As I wore it the best phrase I could think of to describe it is an old one from the 1920’s; Bee’s Bliss is the bee’s knees.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sonoma Scent Studio.