There is an exciting, bright new talent on the perfume scene, John Biebel, a man who reminds me a bit of Slumberhouse‘s Josh Lobb in his creative, bold, unusual, and very modern voice, a man who has quietly released two of the most accomplished and striking fragrances of 2017 and a third pretty one. They demonstrate a remarkably deft mastery of complex fragrance structures, an eye for good quality raw materials, and an innate talent but, above all else, his fragrances feel authentically original. Like Mr. Lobb (and also Serge Lutens), Mr. Biebel has the rare ability to combine unusual notes or aromas that might sound odd on paper but, thanks to his talent and skill, come across in the most interesting ways that leave you sniffing your arm again and again, wondering why no-one had thought of the idea before. At other times, though, he takes a classical composition and manages to make it feel modern and fresh but also dramatic. In both instances, I think that the result is bound to be somewhat polarizing, but then original, thought-provoking, impactful, and sometimes challenging fragrances usually are.
Io Non Ho Mani Che Mi Accarezzino Il Volto probably wins the award for the longest perfume name of 2017. The words translate to “there are no hands to caress my face” and come from the first lines of a poem written by Father David Maria Turoldo in 1948. The length of the name makes it impractical for me to refer to all nine words repeatedly throughout this review, so I’m going to make my life simpler and just call the fragrance “Io Non Ho Mani.” (In my head, I mentally call it “Yo, No Mani” in a Rocky Balboa voice. “Yo, Adriennnnnnnne, Io No Mani.” It’s terrible; I know I’m a philistine and an uncouth barbarian, but I can’t seem to help it.) Name aside, “Yo, No Mani” turned out to be quite a happy, unexpected surprise. I thought it was a great spicy, woody, tobacco, incense-y, amber oriental.
Mandala, the second recent release from Masque Milano, has a very different geographic focus than its New York sister. This one is centered on a monastery in Tibet or Nepal where the sound of Buddhist monks’ overtone singing rings out in the rarefied air, “two notes chant[ed] in perfect, peaceful harmony.” The fragrance is meant to have the same duality, as well as the same meditative serenity, according to Masque’s official scent description: “A myrrh and incense fragrance – light and delicate. A contemplative atmosphere. Vibrating at two levels at the same time.”
Today, I’d like to look at six luxury oud oils from Ensar Oud which cover a spectrum of agarwood varieties and scent profiles. Some smell of the best Islay single malt scotch poured over leather and smoked mesquite; others transport you to the heart of a green forest, have stages redolent of lilacs and peaches framed by fresh vetiver, or smell of fruits, honey, and jasmine. No two are identical, but they are all smooth, high-quality, interesting, and highly nuanced.