Colognoisseur Best of 2020 Part 2: Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

After yesterday’s broad overview, in Part 2 I get very specific naming the best of the year in four categories.

Perfume of the Year: Shalini Iris Lumiere One of the joys of writing about perfume for over a decade is I’ve been able to watch brands develop. My favorite is when a creative director and long-time collaborator find that magic moment when all their hard work produces a transcendent perfume. Shalini has been making fragrance since 2004. In 2020 it made my Perfume of the Year, Shalini Iris Lumiere.

Iris Lumiere is the fifth perfume from fashion designer Shalini and master perfumer Maurice Roucel. I have enjoyed the other four releases a lot. Iris Lumiere took a quantum leap over those. It achieved that by showing me a different version of iris. As mentioned yesterday I write a lot about the powdery or rooty nature of the ingredient. Iris Lumiere showed me something I had never experienced before, an intensely greener version.

It has always been one of M. Roucel’s strengths to find new ways to showcase well-known ingredients. His choice to use galbanum and muguet as green interrogators of orris formed something captivating. It was if a fresh green rhizome had been harvested with moisture dripping off it. Months away from being the dried version we are familiar with. By using the overdose of galbanum it creates a sparkling set of jeweled facets among the irises. The final piece is to shine silvery moonlight on it using frankincense.
M. Roucel has been making perfume for decades this is among his best perfumes ever and not just the Perfume of the Year for 2020.

Perfumer of the Year: Maurice Roucel– It was clear to me heading into the fall that my Perfumer of the Year was going to have the initials MR. Throughout the year it seemed like Maurice Roucel and Mackenzie Reilly kept having a competition in my head. They both worked creatively across every sector. What tipped the balance is M. Roucel did make my Perfume of the Year.

Besides that he also did an artistic composition in NEZ Hong Kong Oolong. Monique Lhuiller was an entirely different version of the mainstream fresh floral.  A Lab on Fire A Blvd. Called Sunset is a fabulous dry leather via California car culture.

I could’ve written a similar resume for Ms. Reilly as her year was also impressive. They say you are judged by who it is you competed against. M. Roucel was pushed all year by one of the most impressive new perfumers we have. In 2020 it was the old master who is the Perfumer of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Fanny Bal, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Josh Meyer, Mackenzie Reilly, and Cecile Zarokian.

Creative Director of the Year: Victor Wong, Zoologist Perfumes– There is no better story in independent perfumery than that of Victor Wong and his Zoologist Perfumes brand. 2019 was an extraordinary year for Mr. Wong including Squid being named the Fragrance Foundation Perfume Extraordinaire at this year’s awards. He entered 2020 with a dilemma. He chose to re-invent one of the flagship perfumes of the brand with a new perfumer. The 2020 version of Bat shows why I hold Mr. Wong in such high esteem. Working with perfumer Prin Lomros they created a different species of bat as the environment was shifted from cave to jungle. It was every bit as enjoyable. He would follow-up with three new releases Sloth, Koala, and Musk Deer. The latter is an expectation shattering take on musk. It is that ability to take chances that makes Mr. Wong my Creative Director of the Year for 2020.

Runner-Ups: Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano, Carlos Kusubayashi of A Lab on Fire, Natalia Outeda of Frassai, Renaud Salmon of Amouage, and Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio.

Brand of the Year: Masque MilanoAlessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are always looking for ways to evolve their successful enterprise. In 2020 this involved creating a new collection called Le Donne di Masque. They re-invented the first two releases of Petra and Dolceaqua before adding Madeleine at the end of the year. This provides a new way of looking at Masque Milano. Just to make sure we didn’t forget the old way Ray-Flection joined the Opera collection. This was another fantastic year for one of the premier brands in artistic perfumery which is why they are Brand of the Year for 2020.

Runner-Ups: Amouage, DSH Perfumes, Frassai, Imaginary Authors, and Zoologist.

My broad overview of 2020 can be found in Part 1 here.

The Top 25 perfumes of 2020 will come tomorrow.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2020 Part 1: Overview

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That 2020 has been an unusual year would be an understatement. None of the fragrance expos. No trips to NYC for perfume events. Instead it turned out to be a different kind of exploration. I’ve been hovering around 650-700 new perfumes tried every year since I started Colognoisseur nearly seven years ago. If you asked me in May if I would be close to that I would’ve been skeptical. Yet when I look at the last line on my 2020 spreadsheet the number reads 634.

One of the reasons it is close to a normal year is I reached out to some new lines for samples. Over the course of the year I was able to delve into new independent perfumers; Jorum Studios, Libertine, Baruti, Christele Jacquemin, and Chronotope. It was a great experience which allowed me to see developing aesthetics in one piece. It was brands like these which provided that fun of finding something new which usually comes from Esxence or Pitti.

One of the trends that seemed to expand dramatically was that of reviewers becoming creative directors of their own perfumes. Most of these were as cynical as the mainstream releases using focus groups to design their fragrances. They just tried to decide what their readers/subscribers liked best based on measured response and made something to reflect that. That’s just a focus group in a different costume. There is a fantastic template for anyone serious about doing this. Just look at Victor Wong of Zoologist. He has gone from Facebook to the Fragrance Foundation Perfume Extraordinaire Award this year. He makes perfumes he likes while trusting there is an audience. So far, he has been right.

Renaud Salmon of Amouage

Amouage went through a big change as new creative director Renaud Salmon took charge. Over the course of the last half of the year M. Salmon reassured me that this important brand is going to do well as it moves in a different direction. I believe it will continue to be one of the key creative brands in perfumery.

This was also a year for some truly odd accords for perfumes to be built upon. One which repeated over and over was the scent of horse. Maison D’Etto’s entire collection is based on horses from creative director Brianna Lipovsky’s life. Ignacio Figueras Palm Beach and Sarah Baker Bascule also brought some thoroughbreds to the party.

Wet cardboard was the centerpiece of Nez 1+1 Folia. Clay pottery formed the nucleus of Jazmin Sarai Fayoum. Freddie Albrighton and Antonio Gardoni challenged me with one of the most difficult fragrances of the year in Douleur!2. It walks right on the edge of unpleasant, which was its intent.

The gourmand style of perfume continues to evolve as 2020 was bookended by Rasei Fort Cielito Lindo and Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Madeleine. Both finding a new level for the genre.

If there was one thing I realized as I was looking back over the year I must have written a riff on the following a lot this year. “The dual nature of iris as both powdery and rooty was on display”. 2020 is the year of iris. It is also the year of great iris perfumes as you will see as I unveil the list of the best of the year.

I also want to close this overview with a thanks to everyone on the perfume side who assisted me in getting perfume sent to me. I may not have left the house, but the world of perfume showed up on my doorstep daily.

My other thanks are to the readers of this blog. In this ridiculous year of uncertainty writing for you every day was one of the few bits of normalcy which remained for me. I cherish that you choose to share my passion for perfume by dropping by.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my picks for Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director and Brand of the Year. That will be followed by my Top 25 new perfumes of 2020.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Musk Deer- Pillowy Musk

Back in 2013 when Victor Wong founded Zoologist Perfumes, he was an anomaly. Here was a guy making the leap from perfume lover to owner- creative director of his own line. As he started, he said all the right things about making a perfume brand which would be innovative. Although the very smartest thing he might have done in the beginning was to name them after animals. Drawings of cute creatures got people to pick up the tester. They would find that Mr. Wong was keeping his promise. Over the last seven years he has grown into one of the best creative directors in perfumery. He has frequently worked with the independent perfumers, bringing out some of their best work. More recently he has begun bringing in some of the professionals from the big houses. What is quite remarkable about Mr. Wong is there is a consistency to his vision that comes through every time. The latest release Zoologist Musk Deer does it again.

Victor Wong

For Musk Deer Mr. Wong partnered with perfumer Pascal Gaurin. There will be fans of the brand who will be looking for some big animalic powerhouse. What they get instead is a different vision from Mr. Wong. Instead of skankfest he imagined the animal wandering through a winter wood marking the trees with his musk trying to attract a mate. What that means in a perfume is a very plush musk. There are animalic facets but Mr. Wong and M. Gaurin render them in subtle hues.

Pascal Gaurin

It opens with a spicy rose composed of calamus and cardamom among the petals. The cardamom imparts a bit of a chill to set the wintery milieu. The musk comes next. Because they are using a botanical source in ambrette this has a smoother scent profile. As the musk appears it is quiet. It comes up through the spices to take its place on top. As it does M. Gaurin uses a set of ingredients to tune the botanical musk into an abstract version of the real thing. He does this with the indoles of jasmine, the earthiness of patchouli, the rootiness of orris, and the intensity of oud.  As it forms a more animalic version of musk it never crosses the line into skankiness. This is gorgeously well-mannered. It is a musk to wear when you don’t want to provoke. It ends on a woody base of sandalwood and cedar framing the musk accord.

Musk Deer has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I remain impressed that after seven years and 26 perfumes Mr. Wong is still capable of throwing me a change. I expected something huge. The subtle pillowy musk that I got is sublime. It is going to be living on a couple of my winter scarves because it is such a fascinating perfume. Musk Deer is another triumph for Mr. Wong.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I received from Zoologist.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Koala- A New Tree to Climb

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I have always enjoyed anthologies and compilation albums. I am usually drawn in by an author or musician only to discover something entirely new. Some extra books and music to download. It hasn’t really happened to me in perfume until I received my sample of Zoologist Koala.

Victor Wong

When I received the press release in advance of my sample of Koala from Creative director-owner Victor Wong I realized I was going to be experiencing a perfumer new to me. After I got to know more about perfumer Spyros Drosopoulos I felt like I should have known of him before this. He came to perfume from a career as a neuroscientist. Even though I have no interest in making perfume when a fellow scientist does, I am usually interested. Dr. Drosopoulos has founded his own line Baruti. As has become routine for Mr. Wong he finds the most interesting perfumers to produce stellar work for him.

Spyros Drosopoulos

One of the other hallmarks of Mr. Wong’s creative direction is he tends to take what we know about the animal on the label. In the case of Koala they take the mental image of one languidly chewing eucalyptus leaves turning it in a delightful direction.

Dr. Drosopoulos opens with that expected ingredient by placing it inside a sticky honey matrix. You might look at that and think of a home remedy for the sniffles of honeyed tea and Vicks Vap-o-Rub. This is not as simple as that. The eucalyptus has a more vegetal presence the honey captures in that slightly animalic embrace which is sweetened through the addition of mimosa. This is a soft soothing top accord. Over the heart a set of spices insert themselves into that. I was expecting them to add more zing, but they add even more softness. It is a remarkably snuggly perfume for much of the early development. It switches into the base as vetiver, oakmoss, and sandalwood evoke the wood and leaves of the tree our fuzzy narrator is perched in.

Koala has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

You might look at that ingredient list and think this is a cold weather scent. I wore it on two hot and humid days, and it was delightfully cooling through the mentholated effect of the eucalyptus. I think there won’t be much of my sample left by the time there is frost on the pumpkin. Mr. Wong has been on quite a creative trajectory over the last two years. He has a vision and an audience he wants to share it with. He has regularly produced perfumes which are among the best of the perfumer he hires. I can’t say where Koala falls in Dr. Drosopoulos’ career because it is my first exposure. It is like those anthologies and compilations I mentioned I can’t wait to climb this new tree for myself.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Sloth- Rainforest Sleepytime

I was having a teleconference with an Italian perfume journalist. He asked me who I thought was doing the best creative direction in independent perfumery. I think there are two names which come right to the top of mind. One of them is Victor Wong of Zoologist. I have lauded Mr. Wong extensively but I will add this onto the pyramid. The biggest reason I think this, is he has remained true to his vision of creating different perfumes. The collection runs the gamut from crowd-pleasers to challenging. He has seemingly never compromised the creativity for commercial considerations. He has also managed to coax some of the best work from some of the best independent perfumers. It seems as if his reputation for this now has perfumers approaching him.

Victor Wong

When Mr. Wong was in London for the 2018 Art and Olfaction Awards one of his fellow finalists approached him about a collaboration. The perfumer was Prin Lomros. They had corresponded previously when Mr. Lomros had described perfumes he had imagined paired to a specific animal. They decided now was the time to collaborate leading to Zoologist Sloth.

Prin Lomros

They decided they wanted to create a slowly unfurling perfume to mimic their totem animal. To achieve this they imagined their sloth hanging high in the trees safe from the predators below pillowed on a mossy branch. It forms a sleepy green perfume.

Mr. Lomros combines chamomile, lavender, marigold, and violet leaf. This is a cleverly different way of making a vegetal green accord. Chamomile and lavender have herbal facets which Mr. Lomros uses the violet leaf to accentuate and blend. The marigold has an astringent floral quality which provides a connection to the jasmine in the heart. This is what creates the tropical humidity of the rainforest. A very precise amount of cumin represents the sloth among the leaves and flowers. Beeswax adds in its gentle slowly oozing animalic character in sloth-like movement. The fecund scent of the forest comes in the base accord via tonka, myrrh, and oakmoss. Mr. Lomros uses enough of the oakmoss to notice. This is a classic velvety oakmoss effect. It feels just like the perfect place to lay a sloth’s head for a nap.

Sloth has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Within the spectrum of Zoologist perfumes Sloth is in the middle between crowd-pleaser and challenging. Although it has bits of both at different times. It speaks to all the things I think is great about Mr. Wong’s creative direction. It doesn’t smell like anything else in the collection. Mr. Lomros has made one of his best perfumes. Even when its sleepytime in the rainforest Sloth makes you take notice.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Bat (2020)- A Different Species

Every perfume brand will have a breakout moment if they are good. In 2016 that moment happened for Victor Wong with the release of Zoologist Bat. To that point he was building a presence slowly and confidently. Bat would be the inflection point of attention. Mr. Wong would be lauded for his creative direction. Bat became the way many people discovered the brand. Then a disagreement with the perfumer had Mr. Wong facing a difficult decision. Do I just discontinue the perfume? Or do I try again? To his credit he has chosen to try again with Zoologist Bat (2020).

Victor Wong

He met Thailand-based perfumer Prin Lomros a few years ago. Mr. Lomros approached him about making a perfume for Zoologist. He even had some perfume sketches for Mr. Wong to try. That has led to the release of Zoologist Sloth. When Mr. Wong made the decision to re-make Bat he asked Mr. Lomros to take the wheel.

Prin Lomros

The original perfumer, Dr. Ellen Covey, based the perfume on research she had done as part of her scholarly work studying bats. She wanted to capture the cave they lived in. The success speaks for itself. Mr. Lomros was asked to make a few slight changes a fruit here, a resin there. Make it your own but try and stay close to the way the original smelled, Mr. Wong asked. Instead Mr. Lomros created a version of Bat that reflects his part of the world and the species of bats that live there.  This isn’t the same as the first Bat but it delivers different pleasures while staying true to the theme.

The keynote of the first version was geosmin; the perfume ingredient which smells like soil. Mr. Wong wanted that to be in the new version. Mr. Lomros takes his Bat to a different cave in a different part of the world.

Bat (2020) opens with an intensely fruity accord comprised mainly of guava while gaining depth through fig and passion fruit. This is a fruit forest of Asia where the fruit bats happily perch. The first hint of the bat comes though a full spectrum jasmine. The indoles let you know there is a furry animal within the florals and fruit. I enjoyed immensely the way the bat feels like it is trying to hide from detection but the animalic indoles give it away. Now is when the geosmin comes out as if it is the dirt of the forest floor. It has that tropical humidity to go with the soil. It is a fabulously different take. Along with the intense fruits and florals it comes together very well. The hidden bat takes wing and flees to its cave over the final stages as the stone and dirt become more pronounced. Olibanum, vetiver, and teakwood form the moss-covered walls of its lair.

Bat (2020) has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Bat (2020) is nothing like the original Bat it is its own beast. I have to give credit to both Mr. Wong and Mr. Lomros for seeing this through. It would have been so easy to walk away. That they chose to release another equally compelling version into the wild deserves praise. I enjoy it as much as I did the original because of the differences.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.

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

New Perfume Review Zoologist Bee- The Best Buzz

This time of year is the only time where I feel a little rushed. I am literally down to the last few days left to me on the review calendar before I begin to compile my end-of-year lists. In previous years it is just trying to squeeze in those last perfumes of the year. This year the final six weeks of the year has seen one excellent perfume after another arrive in my mailbox. The final streak of reviews that will be coming are all from independent lines that have conspired to make my life joyously difficult. Whenever it is posited to me that there is nothing new to be seen in perfume, I would happily gather everything I’ll review over these last few days of 2019 as proof that is flat wrong.

Another by-product of the end-of-year thoughts is it forces me to look back to the beginning of the year. To remind myself of the perfumes which came earlier in the year that I want to remember. On the day I did that recently was the first day I was wearing Zoologist Bee. It ended up having an interesting parallel as I was reminded of the perfumer of something earlier in the year while wearing his latest.

Victor Wong

Whenever Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes has something new, I am interested. He has become one of the most reliable creative directors in all of perfumery. He has coaxed some of the best work out of the best independent perfumers in the world. One thing he does which almost seems like magic is he imposes a Zoologist style without overwriting the individual perfumer’s creativity. It is one of the major reasons I believe this has been such a broadly appealing collection. When I heard Mr. Wong was adding a perfume called Zoologist Bee I was excited to see what the interpretation of that would be. When Cristiano Canali was named as the perfumer my expectations soared.

Cristiano Canali

Sig. Canali is one of the most talented perfumers currently working. He has only signed three perfumes previously to Bee. Each of them shows a unique ability to capture his keynote and make it the central layer in a perfume which slowly evolves. He has worked with some of the hardest to tame ingredients only to survive brilliantly. In Bee he is taking on another ingredient not known to be easy to work with; honey.

Honey is notorious for its refractory nature and narrow band where it finds some joy as part of a fragrance. One of the smart things Sig. Canali does is to use beeswax as a surrogate for honey. It allows for there to be less of the actual material. It also allows for him to pick up on the animalic worker bee hum underneath the waxy sweetness. By weaving in a selection of florals, resins, musks and sandalwood he once again builds a multi-layered ode to creative perfumery.

Bee opens with the buzz of ginger in contrast to the honey. As I mentioned above this isn’t a honey that tilts towards a urine-like scent profile because the beeswax keeps it more firmly centered in the pleasant sweet spot. The ginger is also given more viscosity as it is called “ginger syrup” in the ingredient list. There isn’t the usual fidgety sibling quality you find with ginger. This is a quieter version made more memorable for not seeking out attention. It goes with the flow of the honey in and out of the waxy hexagons of the hive. Sig. Canali then crafts an accord which forms a floral honey accord to act as a kind of call and response to the top accord. Using heliotrope, orange blossom, mimosa and most importantly broom he finds similar harmonics to the trio of beeswax, honey, and ginger in the top. This is where Sig. Canali keeps impressing me. He finds ways to create echoes of the ingredients of his perfumes which resonate through the entire experience. The base accord than splits things up as benzoin and labdanum capture the sweetness in a resinous embrace. A suite of musks find that worker bee animalic. Sandalwood provides the final woody grounding while being made a bit creamier with a touch of vanilla.

Bee has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

As he has done so often Mr. Wong has found a new high for a perfumer I already thought highly of. He has become the consummate creative director. Sig. Canali has shown me, once again, that he is a singular perfume designer. There is nobody who designs perfumes which smell like his. When you combine two creative minds working at the top of their game there is no surprise that Zoologist Bee has the right buzz.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Squid- Deep-Sea Aquatic

Anyone who has ever been in a boat on the ocean can tell you once you get out over deep water things change. The color goes from brilliant blue to deep indigo. If you dive underneath the water after a few feet you realize there is more below you than above you. There is also a scent to the ocean once you leave sight of shore. It has nothing to do with sea spray, suntan lotion, or tropical flowers. It is all about the briny depths. If you’ve ever wanted that in a perfume Zoologist Squid is here.

Victor Wong

Creative director-owner Victor Wong collaborates with perfumer Celine Barel. Their effort is to create an aquatic that represents the depths of the ocean. This an aquatic which is for those who don’t want the classic “fresh and clean” aesthetic characteristic of the style. Squid looks in the darker places far away from land. To accomplish that Mme Barel uses a couple of fabulously engineered accords she calls “black ink” and “salty”. The former is probably the factoid most people know about squid, they shoot ink to escape predators. In the case of a perfume accord I experienced it not so much as inky but as the deep indigo color of the open sea. The “salty” accord is, I think, an accumulation of the typical sea spray ingredients layered in a denser fashion. I believe I pick out things I recognize but there seems to be more weight to some of them. I would be interested to know how she decided to construct this.

Celine Barel

Squid opens on a top accord of incense and salicylates tuned by baie rose. It reminded me of the scent of the seaweed lines at the edge of the Gulf Stream. It is a green-tinted top accord which leads to that combination of “black ink” and “salty” accords. This is when Squid dives deep beneath the waves. It finds a weight to the typical aquatic style that is compelling. I could drift here for days in a salty pool of ink. Squid moves on with the most classic ocean perfume ingredient there is; ambergris. It provides the more typical style of brininess. In Squid it feels like I’ve surfaced from a dive to where the scent seems lighter. It is the only part of Squid which feels like an old-style aquatic.

Squid has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The depths of Squid make for an aquatic that is going to be even better in the chill of fall and winter. Where most of my aquatics go into hibernation after Labor Day, Squid will still be prowling my perfume shelf as a deep-sea aquatic with legs.  

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Chameleon- Field of Perfumes

Kevin Costner hears a voice tell him “If you build it, he will come.” at the beginning of the movie “Field of Dreams”. It is a call to do what you think is important to bring an outcome you desire. The saying has been altered by many to replace the “he” with “they”. This has then gone on to define efforts which willingly go outside of the mainstream. I have no idea if the creative director-owner of Zoologist Perfumes, Victor Wong, is a fan of the movie or the saying. What has become evident over five years of Zoologist making perfume is the belief that if you build interesting perfume, they will find it. The latest to be found is Zoologist Chameleon.

Victor Wong

One of the reasons for the success of his line is Mr. Wong finds his collaborators by also being a perfume fan. For Chameleon he met perfumer Daniel Pescio when he bought some vintage perfumes from him and M. Pescio added a sample of his own to the box. According to the interview with M. Pescio on the Zoologist website, Mr. Wong thought the perfume smelled very “French”. He filed the name away until he had the idea to do an ylang-ylang and vanilla focused perfume called Chameleon. One thing about M. Pescio is he is one of those shadows behind the scenes of the fragrance world. Chameleon is the first perfume I have smelled by him. In the interview he says he strives for “quality” of ingredients, “the balance”, and “the evolution”. Those are all things which come together to make compelling perfume.

Daniel Pescio

For Chameleon M. Pescio didn’t want to retread the typical ylang-ylang vanilla style which is out there. Instead of exploring the sweet floral aspects of ylang-ylang he focuses on my favorite part of the scent of this flower; its fleshiness underneath the sweet.  

Chameleon opens with a bouquet of fruity notes representing a tropical style. Threads of aquatic breezes blow through. The ylang-ylang rises to meet the fruits. In the first moments it smells like many ylang-ylang centric fruity florals. Rather quickly it drops into a lower harmonic as that quality I enjoy in ylang-ylang begins to be noticeable. I have enjoyed this because it was the basis of so many vintage perfumes where it would be paired with animalic ingredients for an incredible sensuality. M. Pescio moves towards a similar effect as he harnesses the confluence of cashemran, vanilla, and musks to farm a “salty skin accord”. This comes together to form a fascinating Retro Nouveau perfume.

Chameleon has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Chameleon is another Zoologist release which asks perfume lovers to come to what Mr. Wong is building. Over the past five years many have found it worth the trip. Chameleon is just another all-star player in Mr. Wong’s Field of Perfumes.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: For those of you who enjoy the visual with your perfume Mr. Wong has teamed up with artist “The Big in the Small” to create four unique prints based upon Chameleon. You can read, and see, more at this link.