The first smell of Milan was manure. Sorry for the strange opening but that was the fact. On the Thursday evening, the last day of March, I was greeted by the familiar smell of countryside when I walked out of the airplane at Linate airport in Milan. It was a little ironic since the reason I travelled to Milan was to attend the 8th Esxence to smell and experience (hopefully) fantastic perfumes from all around the world. But, to be honest, I found some kind of weird comfort in this primordial smell.
If you are reading this blog, chances are you already know what Esxence is but for the sake of people who are not quite sure what it is – like I was a few years ago – here’s a little excerpt from the organiser:
Esxence – The Scent of Excellence, is an international appointment that cannot be missed by any brand name which operates, with passion and conviction, in promoting the marvellous art of olfactory language. It rises ever higher in determining the fundamental style choices of every person who likes to be noticed, relying upon the search for personal taste, who seeks expression by choosing between superb creations which are not made to please everyone, but to be admired in their intrinsic beauty by those who wish do so.
Esxence – The Scent of Excellence provides surroundings for examples of excellence from throughout the world, displayed together without competitive tensions, presented for those who are interested in listening, in savouring aromas, in understanding and enjoying stories, anecdotes and creative decisions, in courageous innovations and distributive consistency, so that each producer’s priceless olfactory taste can be best selected and chosen from among the finest creative excellence.
So, basically, it is an artistic perfumery event where you can talk to actual perfumers or directors in person and smell around hundreds of perfumes as you wish. At least that’s the case for perfume enthusiasts like me. For perfumers and perfume brands, it’s a little different story and more serious thing for their business, of course.
Because of my late arrival on Thursday, I missed the opening day of Esxence, but I had enough time to meet Val the Cookie Queen from Australian Perfume Junkies and the celebrated perfumer Vero Kern from .vero.profumo. Greeted them with big hugs but I bet I smelled disgraceful from travelling. And then I had a pasta dinner with Lucas from the Chemist in the Bottle, catching up with all sorts of things like old friends. Pretty good start, I’d say.
The next day, Esxence was heaving and totally mesmerising. I received my press pass at the entrance and went inside with Val, Vero, and Dr. Fox. It really was a sensible choice; otherwise I wouldn’t have known where to start! I was tottering behind them through the columns of people already gathering in front of each stand.
Before flying to Milan, I prepared a list of perfumes I wanted to try and perfume brands I wanted to visit in 4 categories;
the first priority – desperately want to smell and can’t go home without a sniff,
the second priority – after sweeping through the 1st priorities, let’s take a look,
the third priority – if there is time left, go around in a leisurely manner,
and the rest.
Also my strategy was to go easy on Day 1 and get my footing first – important for the survival – and then attack most of the brands on Day 2 & 3 and conquer Esxence.
I wouldn’t go on talking about every single thing I did or smelled. It’ll be a torture for you if you decide to read through. For this Part 1 of my Esxence report, I’ll just give you the overview of Esxence and some highlights of first 2 days. In the next post, I’ll cover Day 3.
Oud la la — Oud this, oud that. There were so many oud perfumes. I was so traumatised by oud while I was living in the Middle East, now when I see oud in the name of the brand or perfume or in notes, I flinch. I appreciate miniscule amount of oud in some perfumes but if it’s the main thing, that’s a no-go zone. Hence I walked pass most of the oud brands.
Déjà vu — Even though the perfume itself wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t outstanding or memorable. I guess it is difficult to come up with completely unique and good perfumes in this oversaturated perfume market. I don’t blame them.
Bling Bling — There were quite a few flashy and gaudy bottles scattered around at Esxence. I was kind of frightened to touch them, so I didn’t venture into those stands to smell what was inside. They might have been great, who knows.
Showtime — Some really fancy displays caught my eyes while I was walking around. Usually these stands were surrounded by big crowds and, to give them credit, some of them looked pretty impressive. The only problem was that I didn’t have the patience to queue up to try their perfumes. I missed quite a few.
My way — Generally speaking, these were well established brands and already have their own styles and philosophies. They had more down to earth approach and, although they were happy to answer the questions and assist you, they didn’t seem to pay heed to their surroundings. Personally I liked them.
Charming Charmer — Energetic and full of life perfumers and assistants. Loved them. OK, it was supposed to be all about perfumes but I thoroughly enjoyed talking to them and listening to their stories. Even though some of their perfumes were not exactly my cup of tea, it was still delightful experience. Their enthusiasm was infectious.
Day 1 Highlights
There were two important things lined up for Day 1. One was to hang out with Val, Vero, and Dr. Fox and to visit Campomarzio 70, which I’m going to cover in another post but I still have to mention a few things here. Val was a real blast! Her oozing energy was like none other and, talking about energy, I was astonished by Vero. Have you seen her walking down the streets? In a few seconds, she can be out of your sight. Swift like a summer breeze. Another amazing thing was the sense of direction Dr. Fox possesses. I have a pretty good sense too but mine is more like of a dozy pigeon. In the case of Dr. Fox, I have a strong suspicion that she has own GPS installed inside her. I had a brilliant time walking around with them.
Another big thing for the day was to meet Mary Gooding and Puredistance team. It was so great to see them finally in person! They were radiant and beautiful, perfect personifications of their perfume line. We had a good chat and talked a little bit more about their new perfume Sheiduna. Sheiduna will be released later this year and its representing colours are red and gold. But I can’t tell you anything more. I’m sworn to secrecy. 😉
I also had a chat with Pauline Rochas from Coolife and it was fascinating to hear inspirational stories behind the creation of this perfume line. Each perfume represents individual chakra – the energy centre. So far 4 of their perfumes have been released, including the latest Le Quatrieme Parfum; it was smoky grounding scent and was really good.
At Maria Candida Gentile’s stand, I was introduced to her new Rrose Selavy. It was a rich and deep rose perfume containing different varieties of roses. Although I’m not a rose perfume person, I enjoyed it a lot. Rose lovers, check this one out.
Olivier Durbano was such a lovely guy and fun person to talk to. I loved his brilliant display of perfumes! He didn’t have new releases at Esxence but sounded like something would join his line later this year.
I visited Jardin D’Ecrivains toward the end of the day. I wanted to try some I hadn’t had a chance to sniff before. I don’t usually wear perfumes when I go to bed but I though La Dame aux Camelias – Night Cologne would be a great one if I did.
Day 2 Highlights
Day 2 had started with the lecture “New Fragrances: A ten-years Review, 2006 to 2015” by Michael Edwards. Then I embarked on my sniffing sessions with Lucas. At the Nishane stand, we split up for a while. Nishane was on my first priority list and I really wanted to try their 2 new perfumes: Fan Your Flames and Hundred Silent Ways. Don’t you love the names? I do. They are well composed and I liked both of them. Mert Güzel & Murat Katran were so approachable and with genuine smiles; fantastic guys. Since I mentioned “fantastic”, I need to tell you about Mark Buxton. He has been my puppy crush of the perfume world. My hawk (OK, magpie) vision spotted there was nobody at his stand, so I swiftly manoeuvred through the crowd and perched clutched onto his stand. How could I miss this opportunity? I tried his new A Day In My Life. It was so Mark Buxton. He revealed that this would be the last of his current line and he would move onto next projects. It was a delight to listen to him talking about background stories of his creations and his creative approaches. It really was GREAT!
Another one on my priority list was Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger. Virginie Roux warmly showed me around their collection and I tried quite a few including 2 new perfumes Liberté Bohème & Poudre de liberté. Violette Sacrée was another perfume that I wanted to try for a while, and finally I got the chance. I’m glad I did. This will certainly join one of my favourite violet perfumes.
Dusita is a sparkling new brand. I stopped at their stand to sniff 3 new releases – Issara, Melodie de l’Amour, and Oudh Infini – and chatted with the perfumer Pissara Umavijani for a quite long time while munching on Ferrero Rocher. All of her perfumes were inspired by her father’s poetry. On the strip, I thought my favourite was Melodie de l’Amour but I rather liked Issara when I tested on my skin. I’m not a big fan of oud perfumes but even I could tell that Oudh Infini was a good creation. I have a high hope for this line and I’ll definitely be following her progress.
I also managed to catch Tanja Bochnig from April Aromatics in a slight quiet moment. Believe me, other times her stand was always surrounded by a huge crowd and it was so hard to get close to. After sniffing Purple Reign – soothing violet and iris scent with lavender twist – and other quality creations by Tanja, we met up with Lucas and had a little quiet lunch break on a park bench together. We all needed that brief tranquil moment away from people and perfumes!
Gabriella Chieffo’s artistic display for her new release Maisia is worth a mention. It plays on light and shadow and seemingly random letters on the wall cast a shadow in the shape of a woman. The perfume itself tells a story of a woman, accused of being a witch and burnt at the stake. The slightly smoky ash note does give an imagery of her final fate. The word artistic also goes to Nettuno by Mendittorosa Odori d’Anima. The bottle was adorned with a glass and mirror mosaic plate, each handcrafted by an artist, and looked stunning. It was quite fitting for this multi-faceted perfume; clear, deep, and somewhat animalic. Artistic in more classic way was The Merchant of Venice. The bottles for their Murano lines are real eye candies. I asked if we could choose a scent and a bottle separately and mix and match, but answer was, unfortunately, no. I sniffed 3 new perfumes from the Flame Collection; Divine Rose, Orchid Oud, and Pearl Bouquet. All of them featured oud, but it wasn’t prominent in any of them (at least when I tried them there) and stayed at a comfortable level.
Did you know that I have a thing for the periodic table? It was partly because of my late husband; he was a chemist and his desk was often covered with chemistry books. That fond memory brought me to the One of Those/Nu_Be stand to try their new Curium. I have no idea what radioactive materials or elements smell like – I guess there wouldn’t be a specific smell – but Curium smelled of cool iris and vetiver. I rather liked it.
Dolce Passione by an Italian brand Pantheon would carve your chocoholic craving without making you worry about your waistline.
I had avoided spraying anything on my skin all day but it had changed when I reached Aedes de Venustas. Cierge de Lune, developed by perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin, was new to this line and I’ve always admired the botanical illustration of Night-Blooming Cereus in the book “Temple of Flora”; I had to try this on my wrist. It really was worth it. It was musky, powdery, and spicy simultaneously in a sensual twirl.
Dali Haute Parfumeire collection was from Salvador Dali and it was completely new to me. The nose behind this line is Alberto Morillas and each bottle cap (Regard Scintillant de Mille Beautes, Voyage Onirique du Papillon de Vie, Calice de la Seduction Eternelle, Melodie du Cygne de la Main, and Fluidite du Temps Imaginaire) is decorated with a golden symbol inspired by Dali’s jewellery. I liked the melted watch design and Lucas liked the Eye of Time design.
I’m a naturalist at heart, so I was quite drawn to the concept of Raw Spirit. Their perfumes were inspired by the energy, spirit, and connection to nature as they collaborated with some of the oldest communities around the world. I liked Citadelle and Desert Blush.
Quite a few stands were offering different methods to experience their perfumes rather than using traditional blotters. Some of them were using ceramic tablets, perfume soaked objects in containers, bells, and many other creative ways. The stand of Making of had sizable flasks lined up on the counter top. Lucas and I stood in front of them, passing flasks to each other to sniff from them; this movement somehow reminded me of the tea ceremony. We also tried their not-yet-released perfume there.
Lucas and I also visited Corsica Essences and tried their 4 perfumes portraying the power of the four elements: earth, water, air and fire. Another brand we visited toward the end of Day 2 was Bahoma London. I wasn’t aware of this brand before, so it was good to discover something completely new. They had quite a few EDTs and candles. My nose – and everything else – was pretty weary by this time and things got blurry. Later I’ll try 10 samples I got from them and then tell you what this line is like.
I visited a few more brands on Day 2 and I can tell you, by the end of the day, I was as tired as a turtle that raced against a hyper rabbit. I’m sure I missed out something else but, as I said earlier, my note taking skill is yet to be improved. If I remember, I’ll add them later.
That’s more or less the glimpse of what I did at Esxence in the first 2 days. By the end of Day 2, my olfactory system was in overdrive and under high pressure. The concept of Esxence this year was Infinity. Certainly, it felt like infinite.