Recognizing Excellence. The first mAPA Perfume Awards at Esxence.

2024 . 04 . 11 | written by Laurence Arrigo Klove

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For the last four years, the mAPA awards have been taking place in China. The 2023 awarding event happened at Esxence in March 2024 where mAPA functioned as an official partner. Minorité, the cultural communication agency specialized in artistic perfumery and responsible for the ceremony, decided to hold the fifth awards edition in Milan. A giant leap that demonstrates the significant contribution of the East in terms of artistic perfume creation. A unique presence at Esxence when ‘West Met East,’ or ‘East Met West’ when the two civilizations engaged in a perfume correspondence. The minorité Artistic Perfume Awards were in the limelight as Yuqing Zhang, general manager and chairperson of the awards held a conference during Esxence and animated the official mAPA stand with her presence. The awards stage setting is complete with the name of the proud and exclusive sponsor. It is no less than the prestigious Mane company that showcases its vigorous commitment towards the development of creative perfumes.

A Round of Applause for mAPA Artistic Perfume Awards.

Let us start with the organization of the mAPA awards, the composition of its judging committees and its price categories.

Yuqing Zhang, general manager of minorité and chairman of the mAPA awards.

The chairperson of the mAPA awards, Yuqing Zhang, is a Chinese perfume expert, general manager, and owner of minorité China, and writer of niche perfume reviews for magazines and online social media. She confirms the hefty size of the Chinese perfume market; in 2023 it has reached 2.6 billion euros, and it is increasing by 15% per year. The number of perfume users is estimated at 400 million which represents only 2% of China ‘s total population but equals the population of Canada. The most exciting piece of information is that half of them, 200 million Chinese perfume users, have engaged with niche or artistic perfumes. She is full of determination to support local fragrance houses in their authentic innovation and artistic expression.

‘I believe that perfume brands must understand Chinese culture from different angles. I am looking for fragrances that will instantly resonate in Chinese hearts as real authentic creations.’

Yuqing Zhang, in her pre-selecting committee judging role.

Yuqing Zhang, chairperson of mAPA.

As a mirror of the cultural bridge built by the awards, the composition of the two different juries was a mix between the West and the East.

the nine members of the mAPA pre-selection committee

The nine expert members of the pre-selection committee in charge of screening through the hundreds of submissions were (in alphabetical order): Ahua (Perfume KOL), Maxime Exler (Mane China Creative Perfumer), Juan Huang (Ex Chief Editor of Madame Figaro and Wallpaper China), Koon (Owner of Laporte), Yilli Li (Independent Perfumer), Junru Lin (Perfumer), Jiang Sida (cross disciplinary creator), Oliver Walsh (Perfume KOL), and Yuqing Zhang (owner of minorité). In this painstaking initial process, the jury used blind testing techniques to ensure a neutral and unbiased selection.

the seven-member composition of the technical committee.
the technical committee in the middle of their evaluation.

The multi-cultural final technical committee took place in Milan on December 2 and 3 and was composed of seven prime members: Xuelei Huang (Scholar of Chinese Sensory Culture), Silvio Levi (Esxence co-founder, technical committee president, founder), Alexander Lee (Mane Perfumer), Claudia Stagno (editor in chief EM-Export magazine), Sissel Tolaas (Smell RE_searcher & artist), and Song Yuan (olfactory and cross-media artist). The judging panel dedicated its time to the professional evaluation of the shortlisted creations to produce the winners’ list.

The mAPA awards have four prizes’ categories: the Overseas unit, China unit, Chinese brand unit and Chinese Individual unit. Every prize has either one or two entries with three winners each.

mAPA Awards Settings.

Perfume Awards for Outstanding Artistic Contributions.

I noticed that none of the mAPA perfume awards winners are of a fleeting nature. They are intense fragrance compositions with great performance auditions. I mean the jury awarded the artistic talent and its strong connection with the local audience. I found the names of the perfumes and the bottles of the fragrances as inspiring as the scents’ constructions.

The prize winners for Annual Best Overseas.

In the overseas unit, the three winners for ‘Annual Best Overseas’ are Search (Amouage), Memoire Men (Amouage) and Haze (Akro).

The prize winners for the Special Focus Overseas.

In the overseas unit, the three winners for ‘Special Focus of the Year’ are Santal Basmati (Affinescence), Caravansérail Intense (Parfums de Nicolaï), and Marquis de Sade (Histoires de Parfums).

Moving on to the Chinese universe, there is so much progress! Yuqing Zhang tells me this year shows a major accomplishment done by Chinese brands. Back in 2019, there was a major gap between the international brands and the Chinese ones which seemed to be pale copies of their Western counterparts. This is no longer the case, and she really admires the artistic quality of some of the individual creators.

The mAPA awards are recognizing excellence in the Chinese ability and desire to go out of the frame in the pursuit of artistic freedom’. Yuqing Zhang, chairperson of mAPA

The China Unit Annual Best Chinese Artistic Perfume

In the China Unit, the three winners of ‘Annual Best Chinese Artistic Perfume’ are DINshare n2. Alfred Hitchcock (DINshare), Snowy Dyeing Sandalwood (Shanyuan) and Par fume (Mobius Fragrances).

The China Unit Special Focus of the Year winners

Still in the China unit, the winners of the ‘Special Focus of the Year’ awards are: Chasense Spring Tea Perfume (Chasense), Sherpa Tobacco (soulvent), and Lover’s Façade (Profile).

Annual Best Chinese Brand of Artistic Perfume

In the ‘Chinese Brand unit,’ the three winners are Voice from the Sky, Qicunjiu and Uttori.

Annual Best Individual Chinese Artistic Perfume Creation

In the ‘Individual unit,’ the three winners are The hometown in me, Brass Necklace and Hidden Peacock.

Hidden Peacock’ is a perfect example of authentic creativity. The creator has used Sichuan Pepper, a surprising Chinese ingredient in its fragrance composition. The perfume’s strong spicy note is quite unique. Yuqing explains that in terms of ingredients there is still so much to explore in this extraordinarily rich and vast land of China; there are numerous aromatic plants used for Chinese medicine and cuisine, many different trees, and flowers, not just tea and osmanthus…

Esxence. A Gateway Access to Smell Chinese Success.

Silvio Levi at the mAPA stand.
The mAPA stand at Esxence.

I was lucky to catch Silvio Levi at the mAPA stand at Esxence and ask him about his key takes out as a judge and technical committee president:

Copying Western "olfactory" models is no longer happening. Instead, there is a major highlighting of cultural elements belonging to one's own history and a happy blending with ‘foreign’ inspirations. I see an analogy with an Erasmus project of perfumery, or a creative fusion of culinary traditions’. Silvio Levi, mAPA technical committee president, Esxence co-founder, founder

The mAPA stand was undeniably busy with visitors from all walks of life. All eyes ‘and noses’ were on the winners. It is quite attractive I must say to have the possibility to taste ‘the smell of success’. The stand had an engaging and casual ‘gate way’ atmosphere. Like an ‘open door’ into a prestigious art gallery to experience unique creative expressions.

The next mAPA2024 is already in the making. Yuqing explains that this time around, there will be a focus on Chinese perfumers who work for global brands as the committee noticed their excellence in their stage appearance. Pushing the creativity limits and leveraging their Chinese culture proficiency is their unique winning formula. While the mAPA awards will continue to grow its’ international exposure, there will also be at least four niche perfume exhibitions in major cities in China.

Asian Standing Ovation. Priority Lane for Creation.

Good bye to mAPA 2023 & Hello to the next one

The thrill triggered by the mAPA awards lingers in anticipation of what will happen next and of how to address a complex dimension... East and West will not blend into a simplistic and plain fragrance interpretation of the world. Instead, a new hybrid universe will be invented, enriched by cultural differences, inspired by a wider vision, and infused with creative ideas. I am so much looking forward to the new authentic fragrances stories that will be told by the East, created in the East, and imagined for the East.