“Bigger than ever!“, “Hectic, as always, and a little bit more…”, “Better organized than the last, also with the better program.” – that sums up the impressions on Esxence 2023, which I agree with.
Though the official numbers are not released yet, there were more than 280 exhibiting brands, and the number of professionals registered in the first two B2B days will surely outgrow those from the last year.
The full corridors, the people meeting and hugging, the quick briefs on everything that happened since the meeting, the colleagues exchanging impressions and just released information, a tap on a shoulder and sharing the great news about who “didn’t plan to come, but then yesterday decided just to sit on the plane for Milano“, the schedules being adjusted by the skill of squeezing out a little bit more time for the encounters that will become precious memories – I enjoy covering Esxence!
With so much going on, a map of the Pavillion 16 seemed to be everyone’s best friend:
I also like the theming word of this Esxence – IrideSCENT, so I’ve been in search of the equivalents of the beautiful natural phenomena throughout the whole event.
I found many, and still wish for more.
While I was preparing for the Esxence 2023 and making my way through the long brand list and the linked websites, I noticed the big amount of new brands.
The majority I visited fall into the category of “project brands”. I borrowed the term from a colleague who used it for the brands launched by entrepreneurs who invested in the perfume business following more or less the same principles:
“6 – 8 perfumes for a start (“cover all groups!“), make impressive/expensive visuals and packaging, tweak the story that’s already known, and do your best to keep “About us” vague!”. It is what it is, but – speaking about the “project brands” I continue to hope for more iridescence.
I was more than happy to discover a few brand-new or rather new brands that are exciting and worth further following and exploring. For the purpose of this report, I am highlighting two because these became my bright stars:
EAU DE BOUJEE
by Nick Gilbert and Pia Long, UK
I’ve been keeping my eye on Pia’s and Nick’s work for a while, but until this Esxence, I’ve known them only through their engaging posts on social media (mostly Pia), and smart, sharp and short Twitter comments (mostly Nick).
Eau de Boujee naturally derived from the olfactive profiles of the candles, but Nick and Pia reworked and adapted the formulas and presented small but well thought, skillfully crafted and emotionally awakening perfumes: Verdant, Guilded, Queen and Quir.
The first two – postapocalyptic, green Verdant, and spaciously golden Guilded impressed me with their innovative and bold, and larger-than-life character.
I also very much liked rich, uncompromising, but fully wearable Quir, and feel very comfortable saying that this is one of the nicest leather perfumes I’ve smelt in a while.
by Davide Dalla Libera, Italy
Rosae Virtus is a brand-new Italian brand, launched on the first day of Esxence, and founded by Davide Dalla Libera, the botanist and the creator of the perfumes. The “Rosae Virtus” brand was born from the activities of the Novaspina farm, which produces and sells roses and irises of its own selection throughout Europe.
Through the 4 seasons, from spring to winter, the collection presents the various aspects of the different roses – there’s a whole universe of rose expressions within the primal, natural and cyclic frame:
I very much liked Rosa Vere, a spring rose, which is a portrait of blushing and bright rose centifolia in a wide-open airy space: fresh, optimistic, and delicately energetic.
Rosa Aestiva, a summer rose, blushes no more: the champagne accord mixes with golden petals, mixed with fruit facets and floral aspects. This rose balances on a verge of losing itself in the summer joys of maturing.
And as the cycle moves to the end, and roses grow older – the perfumes get even better:
Rosa autumnalis is the autumnal reflection of a mature, spicy balsamic rose: quieter, settled, deeper, rounder and warmer, but still fresh posture and a light heart.
My favourite creation is Rosa hiemalis, the winter rose: this is a captivating portrait of an icy rose, delivering the finest balance between coldish, snow-like purity and quiet, hermetic roundness.
by Dusita Paris / Pissara Umavijani
Rosarine is the perfume that the beautifully constructed Dusita collection missed to be perfect: a luscious red rose, refined, jet seductive, paired with polished patchouli.
I smelled it, fell in love, and wore Rosarine as my Scent of the Esxence Day 1.
During the second half of the day, through the dinner and party, a part of me was occupied with Rosarine’s amazing development:
The fruity facets made the playful and endearing, the light touch of incense brought the touch of self-confidence and drama, and honeyed faces combined with breathing freshness and vetiver’s backbone made Rosarine impossible to forget even at the peak of the great party.
Among beautiful rose/patchouli-themed creations that deserve attention, Pissara Umavijani brought to life a striking beauty, destined to be loved and adored.
Mert Güzel and Murat Katran celebrate the 10 the birthday of Nishane with the X Collection, which includes five most loved perfumes, reinterpreted: Ani X, Fan your flames X, Hacivat X, Hundred silent ways X and Woolong Cha X.
The balance, smoothness and richness of the originals stayed intact, the “old” olfactive profiles remained fully preserved, and are unmistakably recognizable to those who know them, but each new interpretation shows its own way to present a lighter, airier, and brighter character.
I like the transparent, and a bit more floral Wolong Cha X even more than the initial creation, which I love.
I also think that with the coherent concept behind all individual reinterpretations, Nishane anticipated a new trend.
X in the name of the collection stands for the Roman number 10, but after smelling all perfumes, I feel that it may as well stand for “X-factor”.
10 years of that and excellence is the reason for the deep respect.
JASMIN DE TOSCANE
by Jacques Fath / Jean-Christophe Herault
The source of Jack Fath’s inspiration for Jasmin de Toscane, created by Jean-Christophe Herault, came in the form of the branch of jasmine that grows in the Beirut garden of Rania Naim, the creative director of Jack Fath. The scented profile of the white flowers was explored through the headspace technology and carefully recreated, and the perfumer Jean-Christophe Herault build the composition around it.
The result is a beautiful, feminine and radiant perfume – the loveliest fresh, playful and elegant jasmine I smelled on Esxence 2023!
It possesses all of the jasmine intensity and character without the indolic profile: I can already imagine it on a mild breeze in the middle of the blooming spring!
I smiled when I noticed the discrete nutty note coming from the hazelnut accord -it pairs softly with the lactonic flowery facets, and underlines the connection with the previous Herault’s creation for Jack Fath – Vetiver Gris (2022.) – the perfume I wear and love!
This is the jasmine to try – full of character, elegant and very wearable, and it makes me wish for the third part of the Herault/Naim creative collaboration.
by Rubini /Andrea Rubini
Andrea Rubini of Rubini presented his new creation: Odenaturae, it is bucolic to the bone.
My first thoughts gathered around “green” and “golden”, and it immediately transported me to some meadow in the middle of the wilderness in the early summer: baby blue sky, big bright sun, plants and grass up to my hips, the intensely purple sage flowering rises even higher, little flowers of wild camomille seem like the hundreds of little suns shining around me, and: “La, la, la!”.
Odenaturae, inspired by the bucolic part of the opus of the Roman poet Virgil, is the essence of golden-green exuberant happiness!
Andrea also reinterpreted Fundamental – the pillar fragrance that represents both the brand and him personally.
After I asked “Why?”, he smiled at the tone of my voice and said: “Well, you know, I made it when I was 32 – 8 years ago, and I have changed since.
I needed the Fundamental to continue to be authentic and represent me, as I am.”
I tested the new, “complied” Fundamental after the fair, slowly: It has the same DNA, but is warmer, and deeper.
The plushness of the iris is more pronounced, and there’s a touch of dry, unsweetened cacao.
FLASH, FUEL and WEALTH
by Perfume Sucks /Andreas Wilhelm
Andreas Wilhelm, the founder of Perfume Sucks, fetched Pratchett’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, took the number that answers to “the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything“, cut it in half to get 21, and then embedded it in formulae of his new perfumes, as a measure of the golden cut.
Complicated? It always is, if we hitch-hike through the maze of our global reality, without asking the right questions, quite satisfied with the served answers.
The result of creative questioning is a three-part collection that together makes the olfactive story: Flash, Fuel and Wealth.
Flash? Yes, the drugs suck, a big time.
Fuel? We all know how much it sucks.
Wealth? Ummm… yep, I can agree that the money actually sucks, too.
Except, these questions are the answers, and still – what is the ultimate question?
I particularly liked Wealth: on a first sniff, it doesn’t suck at all, quite the opposite: it seems gentle and fitting for almost anyone’s perfume wardrobe. But, there’s also a cutting dryness of a stunning money paper accord that prays beneath the tender and soft violet opening... Wow!
Andreas Wilhelm debunked the scent of money in all of its attractive cosiness, and in all of its unnatural, man-made dryness.
The last time I encountered a typologically similar concept, that was based on socially provocative and engaging correspondence between the olfactive creation and the narrative, and that, as a result of two contrasting layers within the perfume, gradually builded strong emotional impact, and that relied on the well-known, (pop) cultural reference, ELDO was at the peak of its full creativity.
I wasn’t even aware of how much I’ve been missing that!
There is more: the labels of Flash, Fuel and Wealth (de)materialize a truly iridescent message: when I brought their labels under the direct light, the central eye disappeared.
You may interpret that as a clear indication of conspiracy, or as the common denominator of the drugs, fuel and wealth. But, the disappearing eye made me wonder if, outside of Pratchett’s fiction and the discourse of the conspiracy theory, the ultimate question also disappeared from our sight, or if we just haven’t figured it out yet.
by Maison Violet / Nathalie Lorson
Back in 2018., when Anthony Toulemonde, Paul Richardot, and Victorien Sirot launched the first four perfumes of their brand Maison Violet, the story of young business partners whose friendship goes back to the first years of studying at the Ecole Supérieure du Parfum in Paris looked charming and promising.
Now, five years and three more perfumes later, I am fully ready to exclaim: “Well done!”
Over the years, I have followed how Violet gradually and carefully builds a modern, neoclassical brand from the material remains of the disappeared Masoin Vaiolet’s identity. I was pleased to see that Anthony, Paul and Victoria were in no hurry to introduce new perfumes and that with each new release, they remain faithful to the tradition of classic French perfumery.
After they presented Nuee Blue (2019.), a musky and moody iris, I became certain that soon will come a perfume that would enchant me. After Compliment (2021), love at first sniff happened at this Esxence:
This is ABÎME, a warm, shady, deep, and refined woody perfume.
In the heart of ABÎME (meaning: the abyss) is the striking woody accord created with cedar, paolo santo and sandalwood, and a swirl of fresh aromatics, dry and dark incense and warm spices make Abime at the same time deep, warm and mysterious and light and fresh.
The five years distance from the start provides a great perspective: Violet now represents a mature, well-rounded brand with a great and credible story, built on a clear vision and aesthetics, a consistently high quality, and a transparent and friendly approach.
Maison Violet, congratulations!
… AND, THERE IS MORE:
From the program
LEADING BY A NOSE:
Perfumers speak out on education, diversity & creativity
with Alexandre Helwani, Hiram Green, Veronique Nyberg and Alex Lie.
Moderator: Karen Marin.
The panel addressed the diversity of the professional paths and practices of the perfumers’, presenting their different educational backgrounds and their working environments that are, if put side by side, utterly juxtaposed:
On the one side of the table, on the right of the moderator Karen Marin, sat the two self-taught perfumers: Alexandre Helwani and Hiram Green, and on the left sat the two perfumers from MANE: Veronique Nyberg and Alex Lie. As the panel went along, the dichotomy that was obvious at the first glance, became iridescent and multidimensional.
The panel covered many topics that fully deserve to be further elaborated separately: the education, the professional choices the perfumers made, the dynamics and challenges of their working environments, and also their average working days.
We got a chance to smell the perfume each perfumer created and chose to present, and listened to the reasons for their choices, which to the point worked as their personal self-profiling. I am very grateful for that.
“Leading by the nose” enabled some precious insights into compromises and personal struggles of the perfumer working in the industry, or as an independent and self-taught perfumer, and scratched the surface of many issues we rarely witness exposed to the public.
After a full hour of observing the expressions and reactions of the panellists, and listening to what they wanted to say, I couldn’t agree more with what was highlighted in the introduction:
There are two strong emotions that rise above all their differences, strongly connecting them: first is passion – it works as the creative drive. The second is patience – it works as the personal anchor.
It has been almost a week since I sat and listened Alexandre Helwani, Hiram Green, Veronique Nyberg and Alex Lie, and I still think about their gestures and their choices of words.
The full video of the really excellent panel that deserves a separate article can be viewed here.
IN LOVE WITH PATCHOULI –
History and Trends of an iconic raw material
with Eugenie Briot and Arnaud Guggenbuhl of Givaudan
“All things patchouli” – that’s a condensed version of the Givaudan’s presentation, held by Eugenie Briot, Givaudan’s Perfumery school programme manager and historian, and Arnaud Guggenbuhl, the head of Global marketing, insight & image fine fragrances.
In a short time, the presenters served us with an amazing amount of information and cultural references gathered from primary historical sources and contemporary practices and explained them in an easily acceptable and dynamic way.
The part of the presentation held by Eugenie Briot included the explanation of the origin of the plant, its historical names, and its traditional use before the time patchouli was recognized by the West, and imported into Europe (the 1830ies).
I found particularly interesting the historical and cultural explanation of the “cheap/fine” ambivalency in the perception of the note, which started in the middle of the 19th century, had another peak in the 1970ies, in the hippie movement, and still persists today.
Arnaud Guggenbuhl presented the modern applications of patchouli materials in various fragrance sections, and we got the chance to smell the two materials: patchouli oil from Indonesia, and akigalawood.
The “All things patchouli” presentation was informative and enriching in both of its parts.
You can watch the presentation here.
Still, I wish that Givaudan opened the door to its patchouli materials a bit more, and enriched our olfactive experience with a just a little bit wider palette of patchouli materials.
“TRIBUTE TO ITALY, LAND OF PERFUMES”
The concept of L’Osmotheque’s exhibition “Tribute to Italy, land of perfumes” presented the recreations of the historic formulae of 15 perfumes framed by 2 thousand years wide period, and offered the iridescence of perspectives on Italian perfumery:
Among the exhibited perfumes some were “pure-blooded Italians”, created and produced in Italy by Italians, some are not fully Italian but nevertheless deserve a full tribute as parts of the Italian olfactive heritage.
The exhibition also included the perfumes connected to Italy by the recognizable Italian spirit or emotion, such as “dolce vita”, which they interpret and evoke.
I was especially moved when I spotted the original Borotalcum perfume and men’s Pino Silvestre:
From growing up in Croatia, a country bordering Italy, which was a part of socialist Yugoslavia (meaning: pretty closed borders and quite a little understanding of “Western luxury”), I remember that the first “foreign” shower gels that entered our home were German Lux and Italian Borotalco, and they felt so amazing and special!
Also, the majority of men who actually used the cologne wore the Pino Silvestre. Time passed, borders, economy, trends and possibilities changed too: at some point in the late 1980ies Pino Silvestre and Borotalco soaps became “the cheap stuff”, with the difference that Borotalco more or less remained a staple in the bathroom of the average household, and Pino Silvestre became, well, “if you really must, or don’t care for better.”
I felt the chills down my spine when I smelled the original version of Pino Silvestre: it was everything and nothing I remember, and its scent opened an iridescent experience of bitter-sweet back-to-forth-and-back recollection of the good times and the bad times.
On the other hand, while smelling the original Borotalcum perfume, I whished with my eyes closed that my grand-grand-grand-grandchildren, whom I will never meet, keep the tradition of having a blue bottle of Borotalco-whatever in their bathrooms if it smells the same.
THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF AOL AWARDS 2023 FINALISTS
On Friday, the second day of Esxence, Saskia Wilson Brown, the Director of The Institute for Art and Olfaction, together with Spyros Drosopulos and Chi Wai Tang as judges, announced AOL Awards finalists 2023 in juried categories.
I am very glad that this year’s announcement included honourable mentions, because it gave welcomed visibility to perfumes, and a push for the mentioned brands. It also provided more quality information for perfume lovers.
From 50% more finalists and two winners per independent and artisan category in 2022., to this year “almost a subcategory” in a form of honourable mention of noticed creations that did not make it to finals, each year the announcements bring a slight shift.
I see that as a part of AOL Awards’ open and flexible character, and a specific manifestation of iridescence appearing each time the light is cast over the successful creations.
However, I regret that the opportunity of smelling the perfumes made by small independent and artisan brands, especially those outside of Europe, wasn’t a part of the program.
Having in mind that AOL Awards are global and that each part of the fascinatingly prolific organism called independent and artisanal perfumery starts small and is often on limited resources, I wish the colleagues and professionals present on Esxence 2023 didn’t miss the opportunity to smell those that are great enough to make it to the finals, but – quite understandably – could not make it to Milano.
From the personal angle and from the reporter’s perspective, this deviation from inclusiveness seemed as if the fluid, delicate and shimmering iridescence was flattened into a scentless, one-dimensional surface, only a bit more vivid than a PPT presentation.
I choose to remember the beauty of the shared moment when announced finalists took a stand at the same time, surrounded by applauding colleagues and friends shouting “Bravo!“.
Last autumn, when Victor Wong of Zoologist announced that he is coming to Esxence 2023, I was already in a low start, and ready for sprint when I see him somewhere in the crowd.
I fell in love with the brand in the first half of 2017. (I simply say: “since Nightingale…”) and love it for many reasons: the concept, the list of the representative independent perfumers who imprinted their uniquely different signatures into the identity of the brand, the versatile and complex library of perfumes, and I love Victor, for this honest approach to the buyers and fans.
I met Victor early on Thursday (Day 1), while I was exiting the pavilion for a short break – he was at the entrance, presenting the perfumes that will be released later this year.
This was the opportunity to smell the new creations of Spyros Drosopulos, Tomo Inaba and Prin Lomros. I gave my word not to disclose the names of the animals they refer to, but I am very excited that the perfume I liked the most has a name I feel especially connected to.
My interview with Victor happened on Friday, so you’ll read about his views on the past and the future of Zoologist, and his disarmingly honest insights on running a small, successful and growing brand as a “one-man show”.
I finally met the beautiful team behind Miskeo Parfums, a new brand from Berlin: Marie-Pierre Blanchette, the founder of the brand and the perfumer, and Pep Dalasandri/Scentinel, the evaluator of Miskeo’s perfumes.
I managed to test Miskeo’s collection just before the Esxence, and I am happily endorsing the opinion that their Brume is fantastic.
After I met Marie and Pep, I am captivated by the good vibe that they calibrate together and their synergy.
We caught a moment or two to talk about the current moment in the perfumery and the business, exchanging open thoughts. That’s just it: Miskeo is great because Pep and Marie are creative, smart, and “no BS” persons.
I also spent precious time with Nick Steward, the founder and the owner of Gallivant, and this is always an enriching and insightful experience.
Gallivant’s new perfume will be launched soon, and I like it, so, as a spoiler, here is the quote: it is “a fusion between Timbuktu and Noir Exquis“.
Yes, there was the party, too, and again Nishane prepared the best party on Esxence.
Last, but not least, Esxence would be unimaginable without dear colleagues.
We met for the dinner on Wednesday evening, before the Esxence started, shared many great moments after that, and hugged each other firmly before leaving Milano:
“See you next year!”.