1.6.14

Comme Des Garcons Serpentine & Wisteria Hysteria: Two Big Winners!

Comme Des Garcons For Stephen Jones - Wisteria Hysteria

Chromatic scale: White, more white and even more white. Lilac, silver, neon white, microscopic black dots, imperceptible light-blue nuances, steel-cold grey.

Rosey / floral notes with a bright metallic presence and a overall synth-pop vein. The florals are the most distant possible from the real thing. Instead, they're a super abstract rendition of the smell you could expect from a olfactive holodeck on DS9. Incense is here in full force and together with spices provides quite a thick and potent bone-structure. 

As I said, the fragrance starts bright, clean and cheerful but the feeling it evokes is anything but natural. It's sort of like a sense of inner euphoria filtered through chem drugs. Hallucinations and horizontal dancing, mind trips at the borders of cosmos.

Incense takes over considerably and, together with sweetish notes give birth to a dry'n'sweet
accord that, at traces, brought to mind of Eldo's Archive 69 (overlooked gem IMO) minus the camphor.But beside the incense, they also share a certain lived-in vibe. It's not lived-in as in remarkably dirty but more like *humanized*. It's the warmness of clean skin with subtle animalic (humanoid) facets. 

Smartly placed juxtapositions provided by clove and smoky mate notes, preserve the fragrance from becoming too bright and cold yet, at the same time, they paradoxically enhance the overall metallic vibe.

I can't say Wisteria feels warm but it doesn't feel cold or detached either. It surely has both the elements of warmness and coldness but they're so smartly paired to give birth to a completely new feeling. Again, it's like showing to a alien reptile race what *body warmness is about*.

Potent, very long lasting and with a great projection. In this context, Wisteria feels like a collaboration between Comme Des Garcons and Thierry Mugler...if Mugler actually still had taste.

Rating: 7.5-8/10

Comme Des Garcons - Serpentine

Chromatic scale Serpentine evoked: White / Fluo Green / Silver / Black / Pale Pink / Dark Grey

Some random impressions. Boatloads of aldehydes, *gunpowdery* spices, musks, incense, woods, iris-y notes. 

It evokes brand new spaces as opposed to brand new objects. Big warehouses. Concrete, wet white paint, linoleum, immaculate walls, industrial lighting, cars, subways, ads... 

To all of the above, add a smooth powderyness probably linked to some orris-related accord which provides a subtle perfumey vibe necesseary to preserve the fragrance from becoming a mere exercise in style. 

Absolutely wearable, novel and modern...which I guess are all adjectives to describe CDG. 

Once more, Austuguevielle's artistic direction doesn't let me down and, when it comes to modernism, CDG is confirmed to not fear any rival. A big winner.

Rating: 7.5-8/10

28.5.14

Masque Milano - An Interview With Alessandro Brun & Riccardo Tedeschi by Alfarom.



Introduce Masque's concept. Who is your ideal customer?

The main concept behind Masque Fragranze is one form of art rooted in Italian culture and tradition: "Opera". 

In an Opera there is a plot. Acts and Scenes, composing the story, interpreted by talented actors.

With Masque Fragranze we aimed at creating one “scented Opera”, where every perfume represents one Scene, and every Scene is numbered. The whole collection is the Opera of Masque.

It is quite hard to define a model customer: when we launched our line of artistic fragrances, we had the compelling desire to make our perfumes - and, hence, our art - known to the widest possible audience.

Our ideal customers are interested in artistic perfumery -but not necessarily knowledgeable-, curios and keen to discover unexplored olfactory territories, and able to appreciate high quality raw materials and hand made details.
These are customers that can appreciate the value of our products before even considering its price.

How would you describe your brand's overall style? …do you have a signature?

To us, Masque is a melting-pot of different forms of expression - art and craftsmanship: the perfumed content, the form and the story…
Talented noses and top quality raw materials first of all, but we also place great emphasis on the bottle design and the craftsmanship of the hand-made components, as well as the inspiration that guides us in the development of new olfactory scenes.

The single element that is quintessentially Masque is the hand-made ceramic stopper.

We wanted something unique and evocative, highlighting the importance of heritage of craftsmanship and human labour in our products.
So we designed our signature "striped stopper", and we found out skilled artisans able to realize it, in the historic ceramic district of Deruta.
A design laden with history yet perfectly modern. Materials and production process are still those of our tradition, the production rate is low, reminding to the slow living that characterized Italian lifestyle before the hectic days of global economy…

Montecristo have made it to several *best of 2013* lists both from professionals and from the audience. Its evocative and striking power haven't surely passed unnoticed. Beside personal tastes, I think it's unquestionable it have been quite a brave and daring fragrance to include in your original range. What motivated you?

In hindsight, Montecristo was a more than satisfactory launch and we are extremely happy of the buzz it created in the communities of perfume-lovers. Yet we had to pluck up our courage to launch such a bold fragrance when the brand was still young.

When designing the line and launching the first fragrances, we wanted to make it clear that we were guided not by the desire to please the customer, but rather by the earnestness of defining what we are. Thus, each fragrance was to be unique and with a sharp and distinctive character.

One of our favorite olfactory family is leather, hence we couldn't help but opening with a leathery fragrance. "Our" leather.

We kept repeating to Delphine Thierry (the perfumer) that she was free to experiment in a way she was not allowed to when working for more "commercial" maisons. We really encouraged her to dare.

Every new sample was more animalic, darker, more complex and plenty of different interesting facets.

The final version was for us fully satisfactory. It was love at first …smell!
After the surprising opening, when Montecristo shows its muscles, its power and character, the animalic and dark shades get softer, creating a comfortable - yet extremely original - atmosphere.

How did it all start?


The more we know each other, the more we are surprised of how many things we have in
common.

We both studied Engineering, and have a passion for creating things - yet creating in an artistic way, breaking rules and avoiding clichés.

We both love many forms of art, music above all - and we play guitar since boyhood.
We love traveling, fine food, good wines, minimalistic design, elegant dresses and Italian joie de vivre.

We are always eager to know and to experiment, restless and relentlessly looking for perfection.

Riccardo's interest for fragrances turned into a real passion after a period spent in Australia, while studying small italian luxury companies Alessandro developed the ambition of creating his own luxury brand.

Joining forces and revealing each other our plans, we soon started working towards a common goal… this is how we started.

…and now Tango, which is rapidly becoming your potential blockbuster thus far. Talk us about it and about your collaboration with Cecile Zarokian.

Every creation of Masque Fragranze follows its own path. We are not afraid of this. Because we really believe that each piece of art is unique – also in terms of creation process. The story of Tango is all of this: serendipity, our passions, a daring composition, different forms of art, … - mingling and sublimating in the precious jus.

Tango belongs to the third Act of our scented opera, and Act III is the act of sentimental relationships. 

The first date. A romance. Falling in love. Being in love. Pledging everlasting engagement. The evolution of any sentimental relationship seems to follow this same path. As we do not follow clichés, we avoided to work on this story starting from scene I. 

We spent many nights trying to imagine how a few fragrances could epitomize the mostimportant of mankind ties.

Drinking Ron Y Miel brought by Alessandro from Canary Island and listening to music, we found ourselves talking about sentimental relationships.

Something starting getting clearer in our minds: we will open the act III in the most unconventional way: with a perfume dedicated to Scene 4, with a perfume about passion, yet a passion somehow linked to unfaithful liaison and betrayal.

Tall. Dark hair. With Armenian origin, yet French as can be. Cherry-red lipstick on her lips. White working apron. Cécile welcomed us in her laboratory in Paris. 
6 weird paintings on the walls: naked women in strange postures. Here, the two hands of a man behind the woman are stitching her lips; there, the woman’s torn body merges with the trunk of a large plant and her eyes are bleeding. 

Cécile perfumed each painting. She explains better – even though it was completely clear to us: she did an olfactory representation of the 6 paintings.

Who knows, maybe in the future we could work together in another one of our weird ideas: perfuming a song…

We loved her works. We were amazed by the warm sensuality of her creations.


You're working with very selected perfumers such as Delphine Thierry (Lubin, Cloon Keen Atelier, Majda Bekkali Sculptures Olfactives), Giuseppe Imprezzabile AKA Meo Fusciuni and Cecile Zarokian (Amouage, MDCI Parfums, Jovoy, Laboratorio Olfattivo, Suleko). How did you choose them and how the creative process works?

We believe there is no an actor able to relate to every possible role with conviction; no musician able to play every single musical style with authenticity. Then, there could be no nose able to represent every single scene of the scented opera of Masque Fragranze. The fragrances of Masque are to be created with a soul, and the nose’s appointment is to give life to our scene. Hence, every scene will have “its” nose.

The construction of every single scene entails the quest for the actor having, thanks to his or her repertoire of jokes and playing style, the ability to perform at his/her best in this very scene. There is no need to adapt a style … to learn new expressive languages … only to interpret in a personal way the essence of the play. Playwright and actor operate in perfect harmony. In every scene.

Here at Masque, the journey for the creation of a new fragrance always starts from a personal meeting with a nose. Simple yet important deeds: visiting the artist’s lab, listening to the tale of his or her personal life and professional experiences, analysing the approach to perfumes concoction and smelling the best creations. And then describing our visionary project, offering a collaboration, appointing him or her to the creation of a newfragrance – that of the most appropriate scene.

In our casting for the noses to interpret our scenes, we do not search for the ultimate technically talented skilled professional. It is empathy and passion that we seek. The ability to be deeply involved in the project, understand the brief, feel completely immersed in it, to the point that the creation of the perfume should came naturally at a certain point – without following any predetermined technical rule. 

Because we want to create perfumes with a soul.

What's your background when it comes to fragrance? Do you have any reference house, any favourite perfumers of the past, favourite fragrances…

In a world dominated by commercial brands, driven by the dogmas of marketing, there are just a few fragrance houses in constant pursuit of excellence, and which proved always true to themselves in such an endeavour.

One of them is Editions de Parfum, by Frederic Malle. The reasons why we admire Malle’s house are pretty manifest:

• great perfumes made up with great raw materials;
• prestigious collaborations with the best maître parfumeurs;
• utter consistency between the idea and the realization, with a painstaking attention to every detail;
• the apparently unsophisticated packaging clearly witnesses the maison’s emphasis on design and minimalistic luxury, while at the same time revealing the literary inspiration of the concept.

Unlike Malle, which works with established master perfumers, already known and celebrated in the industry, we decided to scout for young and relatively unknown noses - rising stars of international artistic perfumery.

Another peculiarity of our approach is that we do not leave the nose free to create according to the inspiration of the moment; rather, we ask the nose to “interpret” a specific “olfactory scene” within our Opera. Sometimes the indications are quite strict, as in the briefs we describe very complex “SmellScapes”, therefore giving quite binding directions and indicating explicitly a list of raw materials or specific smells to use.

What about your packagings / presentations? Both the boxes and the bottles look simple and absolutely luxurious at the same time and they all have the perfumer's name embossed on a metal plate on the base of the sprayer. Who designed your packagings and why did you choose to give that much exposure to the perfumer?

Certainly in perfumery the “protagonist” has to be the fragrance.

At the same time, though, packaging plays a paramount role in communicating the brand’s identity and philosophy.

We consider ourselves “luxury artisans”, and we want the packaging to be the best representation of the archetypal Italian luxury: unsophisticated, timeless, minimalistic, never screaming, betraying no excess nor overindulgence, yet gorgeously elegant. 

We – Alessandro and Riccardo – personally designed the whole packaging.
We found out the “perfect” bottle (a simple cylinder), and carefully selected all the elements enriching and characterizing it: the pattern on the back, illustrating the spirit of the fragrance; the numbering of Acts and Scenes – roman numbers and a separating dot; the hand-aged pewter label showing the name of the nose creating the fragrance. And, of course, we designed our signature striped ceramic stopper.
We then found out the artisan able to model the stopper.
The patterns used to illustrate every fragrance are designed by young graduates of Politecnico di Milano.

We chose to place great emphasis on the nose’s name. We noticed that this, apparently insignificant, element fosters the creator to really perform at his/her best. And because, after all, the paramount ingredient behind a success of an Opera is the cast…

And by the way there are many company founders that are improvising as fragrance creators. This is simply not plausible, if the aim is that of creating excellent artistic fragrances. Alessandro and Riccardo are taking the role of playwrights and orchestra directors, but they do not jump on stage, a place reserved to the real artists – the noses!

Will you ever offer your fragrances in different formats or different strength?


Our fragrances are distributed in 100ml bottles. For the time being, we have no plans to introduce new formats. All the fragrances in our line are EdPs, but the concentrations in alcohol are carefully adjusted, fragrance per fragrance, in order to reach a perfect balance between the technical parameters -sillage and longevity- and the atmosphere described in the represented Scene. In Terralba, for instance, we wanted to convey a comfortable and relaxing feeling, thus, we could not increase too much the concentration, otherwise the woody/aromatic side would overcome the salty/fresh notes, and the fragrance would have become darker and would have lost its lightweightedness. On the other hand, with Tango, we had to highly concentrate the perfume in order to boost the sensual and warm atmosphere of the Scene.

What's next at Masque? Do you already have an idea on who is going to be your next collaboration?

Our next fragrance will be called “Russian Tea”. It has been inspired by an episode happened during one of our trips to Russia. We were in Saint Petersburg, in an elegant café inside a large bookstore at the first floor of a sumptuous Art Noveau building. Out there, the snow-covered Nevsky Prospekt. 

By looking at the menu, we were enticed by a treat named “Russian Tea Ritual”. The maidens in white apron and bonnet brought us the teapot, black tea in leaves, fresh mint, raspberry preserve.

Immediately, as water was poured in the cup, the infusion unleashed its most characteristic notes. Black tea, heavy and intense. A floral note, sharp and biting. And that unmistakably dry and smoky aftertaste given by the caravanserai campfires, meant to keep the precious tea cargo dry in the never-ending journey through Siberia. 

Some fresh mint leaves were used to give a pleasant fresh touch to the hot water. A teaspoon of raspberry preserve sweetened, without altering it, the bitter aftertaste of leather and birch. We were sipping it slowly, gazing out of the wide window, towards the beautiful cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan and beyond.

The Russian Tea Ritual surprised us, and carried us to an unexpected journey in remote lands, full of mystery and fascination.

We’ve been thinking awhile which nose would translate into a fragrance such experience, until we meet with Julien Rasquinet. We are glad to say that Julien was really “the actor” we were looking for. Belgian, born in London and grew up in Paris, Julien honed his talent in perfumery collaborating with Pierre Bourdon and Christine Nagel. We first met him in Milan, and when the creation process reached its culprit, to work “hands-on” on the fragrance, we spent two days in his ancient country mansion in Normandy, where Julien had the lab and used to live with his lovely wife Irina. Oh, and Irina is Russian – what a perfect adviser for a great “Russian Tea”.

In early 2014, Julien was appointed to a leadership role in Middle East market for IFF... by accepting the new challenge, he moved to Dubai and even had to destroy his lab in the romantic Normandy setting.

We feel so fortunate, as we have the honour to insert his very last creation as independent nose in our scented Opera.

We are going to unveil Russian Tea at Pitti Fragranze, next September 2014.

Masque's website is at http://masquemilano.com

This interview originally appeared on Basenotes.

15.4.14

Vero Profumo Rozy EDP and Voile D'Extrait: Perfumery Can't Get Any Better.

Please, don't retouch my wrinkles. It took me an entire life to earn them…

Anna Magnani.






Rozy EDP

Upon application, the first thing that immediately catched my attention was how easy to like and very approachable Rozy EDP is. It opens with a sparkling combo of old-school fruity notes (mainly peach) paired to a minty and cold-ish geranium which served as an introduction to the main player of the whole composition: rose. Passionfruit is there as well and while confirming Vero's signature when it comes to her EDPs, it also provide a super green / unripe quality that will make of Rozy a fantastic candidate for summer wearings.

Rose takes over in the middle phase and is joined by a subtle honey note to warm-up up and slightly sweeten the overall fresh vibe. Just like with basically every other fragrance by Vero Profumo, there's a solid classicism inherent to Rozy but, Vero's mastery and incredible perfume-culture, preserve the whole composition from resulting a stereotypical old-fashioned rose. Yes, it's classic yet somewhat modern at the same time and definitely suitable for both younger crowds and grown-up audiences. The rose note is in complete harmony with the rest of the composition and while definitely being the main player, it never dominates or overwhelms the rest. Instead, it completely merges with other accords giving birth to amazing synergies one can only experience in the most accomplished works by unforgettable perfumers such as, say Kerleo. In this context, Rozy feels like a rose based fragrance, not a soliflore.

There's not much more to say about the evolution of this gem if not that a cedarwood note makes its appearance during the drydown to reinforce the bone-structure and provide an overall dryness. With that said,  what really matters to make of yet another rose fragrance a standout, it's there. Solidity, honesty, culture end personality.

Downline: Definitely the most easily approachable fragrance by Vero Kern and a terrific candidate to become her best-seller.

Rating: 8/10

Rozy Voile D'Extrait





Now, we're talking! This completely moves in masterpieces territories in my book. The funny aspect is that I'm generally neither a fan of rose nor of honey (which both play quite a relevant role here) but, again, Vero's take on the main theme is indeed one of a kind. She takes a very classic theme and completely turns it into her very own take giving birth to one of those fragrances that will surely live a trace in modern perfumery. Seriously.



Inspiration here is Anna Magnani, her imperfections, her disarming charme, her fragility, her strength, her peculiar features that made of her one of the most loved and talented actresses ever. In order to fully appreciate Rozy Voile D'Extrait, you have to be fine with beauty achieved through imperfections as opposed to pretty (and boring) features. With daring choices, with unconventional solutions. Don't get me wrong, Rozy VdE is NOT a difficult fragrance but, given its depth and complexity, it surely can be appreciated on several levels.

The opening is one of the best things happened to perfumery in a while. Cassis and an almost camphorous tuberose. Seriously, WOW! The fragrance starts evolving by introducing a mix of spices and rose while a dry sandalwood note starts lurking in the back together with honey. In this phase, I get distant echoes of other perfumery pillars (at one point I thought I was catching a kinship with Knize Ten but I'm pretty sure it will probably be just me). With that said,  the fragrance still feels incredibly unique and cultured as opposed to safe and stereotypical. In this context, it doesn't smell french, it doesn't smell middle-eastern…it simply smell like something only Vero Kern could deliver.

Honey takes over together with other moderately sweet elements (vanilla? sandalwood?) while a subtle dose of styrax provides smoky facets. The drydown is basically endless with continuous kaleidoscopic effects involving all the ingredients into play. It goes from dry and smoky, to sweetish and velvety via woody and obviously…Rozy.

Rozy is an act of love, a tribute and a gift from one of the most passionate and talented perfumers around. In 2014, I hardly can see fragrance going any better than Rozy and, believe me, either you will agree or not, I'm being 100% sincere here. Now, I'm seriously wondering how long it will still take to officially declare Vero Kern as probably the most valid *tout-court* artist in modern perfumery.

All of my love and support.

Rating: 9/10

17.1.14

Puredistance - Black: Expensive Pop.

I'm a big fan of both Antoine Lie and Puredistance but this time, I can't say I'm impressed. Lie is responsible of some of my favorite *contemporary* fragrances. His work for brands such as Comme Des Garcons, Etat Libre D'Orange and, lately, Nu_Be is the most blatant example of his talent and his ability to create subtly twisted fragrances that are wearable and at the same time anything but dull. On the other hand, Puredistance is pretty popular for targeting the upscale audience with their luxurious / plush deliveries. The pairing of these two polar opposites, sounded extremely interesting on paper but, as a matter of fact, Black doesn't convince me one bit.

The fragrance opens with a citrusy-peppery-saffrony accord that is definitely well executed and promising. There's a dusty, sort of sharpish vibe that brings to mind of modern masculine fragrances while speaking at the same time of quality and artistry. Unfortunately things fall apart right away with the composition taking a sweetish, red fruity, trajectory during the middle phase. This part is completely boring and, if you want, *cheap* smelling. Overly safe and somewhat generic, even a tad *sporty*. Things get a little better during the drydown when a sweetish oudy-incense base takes over but it's still not enough to save the whole fragrance from precipice. The deja-vu vibe is so strong to drive me mad. It goes from Clive Christian V to something more generically Amouageish (thinking about Epic Man but also Interlude Man and more in general their latest masculines) via Monegal's Agar Musk, Piguet's Casbah and the plethora of other oudy-peppery fragrances released in the past 5 years or so. 

I think they tried to target the more mainstreamish upmarket crowd here but, as a matter of fact, while not being completely bad, Black is far from justifying the hefty price-tag. For those who care, the fragrance is pretty restrained but with an exceptional longevity.

Rating: 5/10

16.1.14

Hermes - Bel Ami Vetiver: JCE's Remix.


Bel Ami Vetiver is a winner. The original bone structure of the popular masculine fragrance by Hermes, is there but not as much as one would think. Now, that's a good news for me because while I absolutely ADORE vintage BA, I don't think I needed a replica. Also, I don't think BAV should really smell like Bel Ami, for that, one has to check directly Bel Ami. BAV striked more as a sweetish suedey thing with an unripe green citrusy (almost fruity) vibe. There are the usual JCE's spices while the leather note seems definitely more vegetal than animalic. The vetiver is extremely old-school, green, soapy and a tad angular and provides great balance turning the fragrance into something unquestionably masculine (at least theme-wise) while its slight rubbery facet, perfectly pairs with the overall leathery-suedey vibe.




I'd say BAV feels like a very smart move from JC. Smells like a modern remix of something very classic. Sort of a tribute to barbershop / soapy leather-vetivers of the past. In this context, the first fragrance that comes to mind is Tuscany Per Uomo by Aramis. Don't get me wrong, these fragrances don't share many objective similarities but they move in very similar territories. The best part though, comes with the Ellena's *treatment* which turns a somewhat dated theme into something that's surely old-fashioned but at the same time contemporary and even modern. That's basically why I think about *classic-remixed* as opposed to merely *old fashioned*. It's like a modern fragrance that continuely quotes *the bigs* of the past. In this context, Bel mi Vetiver feels cultured as opposed to trendy but also cultured as opposed to nostalgic, If that makes any sense. All of the Ellena's hallmarks are there: transparency, weightless character, spices, clean vibe, watercolor tones but this time, they're supported by a more traditionally robust bone structure to create what, in my opinion, is a contemporary classic. 

Now, my final question is this? What this beauty has to envy to whatever Hermessence? Absolutely nothing.

The fragrance is probably not groundbreaking and original. Bel Ami (especially the vintage formulation) was completely on another level, but I can totally see myself wearing the hell out of this stuff. Very good and absolutely full bottle worthy.

Rating: 8/10

11.1.14

Liquides Imaginaires - Sancti: Four Seasons Incense.


This stuff has completely won me over. One of the most sophisticated, transparent and *clean* takes on incense. The composition is actually pretty simple but is so smartly conceived to result refreshing and novel while sticking to a somewhat classic liturgical-incense structure. It opens with a plethora of unsweetened and fizzy citruses (mandarine, pamplemousse and bergamot) paired to a super soft cardamom note and maybe some aldehydes. The citruses smell extremely natural and realistic as opposed to the *undefined* lemony notes we experience too often in modern perfumery. In this phase Sancti feels extremely sparkling and fresh, almost freezing and wintery as in a early morning breeze. 

The evolution starts right away and the citrusy opening perfectly links to the lemony aspect of frankincense. This is basically the middle phase where the fragrance smells of clean church floors, wax and sunlight entering from the mullioned windows. Think about Comme Des Garcons 2 Man with an extra dose of citruses and the vetiver toned down. There's also the *clean* accord of Cardinal as well as the white linen vibe already found in some of the Maria Candida Gentile's works.

A white smoky base starts emerging from the back while the incense gets drier and drier to give birth to a simple yet incredibly satisfying drydown. There's something so purifying about this fragrance, something that smells salubrious. Smells white, pure, clean...almost virginal. If you're looking for something bombastic and tenacious, you'll probably be disappointed. Don't get me wrong, the fragrance is anything but weak bit its weightless character gives it an ethereal vibe throughout that makes of this composition a perfect fit for almost every occasion and every season. Fantastic if worn both on skin and fabric where the incense drydown lingers forever.

Mucho Love.

Rating: 8/10

29.12.13

Nero Profumo's Best Of 2013



From my point of view, 2013 has been a pretty interesting year for fragrance. Some expectations fulfilled as well as some very interesting new faces. Italy has done its part with what, in my opinion, is probably the best fragrance of the year: Montecristo by Masque. A sweaty/animalic concoction of spices, booze, woods and thick animalic musks that strikes for its tremendous character and immense beauty. Incredibly evocative, comfortable and daring at the same time. From the same house, Terralba definitely deserves a mention as well. Completely a different beast from Montecristo but nonetheless outstanding in its peculiar rendition of sand dunes and italian coasts. Extremely aromatic herbs and woods paired to a transparent and salty vibe throughout. Endless wearability and a great all-rounder. 

Nu_Be, which is known for their sublime quirkiness applied to very practical fragrances, delivered two of their most interesting fragrances to date: Mercury and Sulphur. The former is a crazy and avant-garde concoction of sparkling aldehydes juxtaposed to a warm sandalwood base while the latter strikes for its subtle animalic character paired to green and assertive notes such as vetiver and costus.

Beside all the controversy, O'Driù is still delivering pretty solid stuff and Peety gains a special spot in my list of recommendations for this year. A terrific spicy-woody-musky concoction that's vastly head and shoulders above the average quality available in today's niche offerings. French line Liquides Imaginaires introduces to a wider audience its former trio of fragrances Les Eaux-Delà enriched by a new series called Les Eaux Sanguigne. These fragrances, previously available only in very selected French stores, have been now re-launched also in user-friendly 100ml flacons of immense beauty. My personal standout is Sancti, a citrusy and sparkling composition built around a crispy frankincense base. Probably the most literal iteration of church-y incense to date.

On more *popular* territories, Tom Ford's Sahara Noir setted up a new standard for incense-centered fragrances by introducing what's probably the most straight-forward incense since Norma Kamali's infamous Incense. Neela Vermeire has setted the bar so high with her former trio of fragrances and I've been more than glad to discover my expectations for her Ashoka have been completely fulfilled. A trustworthy follower to her previous Trayee, Mohur and Bombay Bling with an incredible evolution from the top notes till the drown. Pure virtuosism.

Comme Des Garcons keeps on doing its own thing without disappointing. Both Black and Sugi have been two big winners in my book. The former is a viscous, and indeed dark, composition of incense, tar and unsweetened licorice which strikes for both its perfect balance and incredible versatility. The latter is probably my favorite in the Monocle series. A minimlisitc (as opposed to simplistic) concoction entirely based on bizarre synergies between few and pretty common ingredients that give birth to something absolutely novel. Kudos.

I will close this list with two fragrances by two houses that haven't impressed me in a while. Amouage seems to have found his way back to the old glory by introducing Fate Woman. Humongous, bombastic and absolutely perfect. Gucci, on the other hand, delivered *Forever Now* to celebrate the Gucci Museo in Florence. A collaboration with master perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi. Probably not a wower at first but definitely a grower after some wearings. Leathery, woody and spicy with a smooth vetiver base and soft floral patterns. It took me a while to completely get it but it has slowly become a favorite for this year.

--------------------------

Honorable mention to Vero Profumo for enriching its catalog with the Les Voiles D'Extrait versions of all Vero's previous fragrances. Fantastic options for anyone who loved her Extraits but prefer spraying over dabbing. Etat Libre D'Orange delivers La Fin Du Monde which strikes as an incredibly solid and easy to wear take on iris with *that* quirky twist that has become the house's hallmark. Perfectly unisex, perfectly sized, smooth and endlessly wearable.