The 2023 Cut.The Perfume Year Top Picks by the Essencional Team

2024 . 01 . 25 | written by Laurence Arrigo Klove

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Fragrance lovers


The Essencional editorial team composed of Chiara Toniello, Ermano Picco, Karen Marin, and me, decided to look back on the ‘perfume year’ that has ended. We discussed what we learnt, what we observed, which perfume or ingredient we liked most, which brand best aroused our interest, which trend we believe will have the highest impact, which personal quote most inspired us, and of course which article we liked best; after all we are writers and readers!

Without further ado, let us start with the top trends of a happy perfume year. We wish you a happy reading too.

Trends: On the Cover. In Focus. What Matters to us.

We have all noticed how much more perfumes belong to the world agenda. Be it financial news, sustainable commitments, social networks hot stuff, influencers picks, serious health matters, neurology papers, psychology topics, chemical safety matters, marketing news...perfumes occupy a significant share of the communication thread. So, what to choose from the bountiful list of topics and trends of the 2023 year? The choice is eminently personal and by no means an official or statistical ranking. You will notice how different opinions on the matter are expressed by four persons, listed by alphabetical order.

Chiara: Looking back on 2023, certainly one of the most talked about topic has been Artificial Intelligence! Discussions covered a wide range of subjects; Chat GPT, the firing of its CEO (Sam Altman) and his subsequent recall, AI applications in image creation in healthcare, industry, and finance sectors, the need for regulation, and the risk in terms of employment impact. It is clear that the world of perfume has been affected by AI significantly too. Over the past year, we have seen various uses of AI applications; in the formulation of bespoke fragrances, in the reformulation of scents in case of raw materials’ ban, in the measuring of wellbeing effects, just to name a few. It is still too early to understand the overall impact of generative artificial intelligence. As Essencional in 2024, we will certainly continue to monitor applications within the perfume industry, to scrutinize the fallout in terms of employment and link with human creativity. More importantly, we will examine the opportunities that this new tool will open up for us.

Ermano: Perfume and the Metaverse. The Metaverse is increasingly impacting our lives, augmenting our experiences, and engaging the senses. This is an exciting unbeaten path to rise olfactory awareness and communicate perfume as a medium of expression and of art. But more importantly, the metaverse takes the consumer along the whole journey of what makes a ‘winning’ perfume, including sustainability and transparency on raw materials. Targeting GenZ is a ‘no brainer’ given their attraction to this new world. In the last two years, some brands like Rook Perfumes, Agarthi-Scent Core have successfully been pioneers of the perfume metaverse world. That is what I call ‘storytelling 2.0’ and it is a major turning point.

Karen: We can't ignore the importance of Gen Z as a key driver in the development of niche and artistic fragrance. This generation is the future, and if, at a young age, they are engaging with fragrance and, even more importantly for us, showing a preference for niche, artistic and independent brands, this bodes well for our sector. The solitude and isolation brought on during the pandemic led them to seek out fragrance as a comfort, as an escape and as a way to connect with their inner selves. The phenomenon that is now #PerfumeTok, which may lead to brands getting viral exposure, grew from this generation. They watch the videos, they seek out reviews on YouTube, they experiment, and they show a preference for what is authentic, gender-neutral, and innovative. We must foster and encourage their interest so as to build long-term relationships with them, to recognize and appreciate their loyalty and to listen so the creativity meets the expectations of this precious customer.

Laurence: Well-being is the most important trend in my opinion. It has already changed the way we develop, appreciate, and use perfumes. Gen Alpha, which follows Gen Z, will place this matter at an even higher level. Well-being is today commonly integrated in AI perfume development tools. The more the newer Gen’s are digitally connected, the more they strive for inner harmony and for tools to manage emotions. Perfumes have the power to do so; they can be an adrenaline morning kick off, a stress reliever during the day, a relaxing end of day winding down (perfumes for bed time is big on #PerfumeTok), or a balancing of inner energies... The rapid changes brought by the yearning for well-being are structural ones. Depending on the mood they are in or the one desired, Gen Z will pick a specific perfume for a specific point in time. The new Gen’s are shaping a new generation of perfumes. We are in a learning mode: what triggers their interest, what brands they find inspirational, what kind of perfumes and ingredients notes they tend to like, what are their sources of information, what is their evaluation process...We must learn from them, quickly, relentlessly, and immensely.

Perfumes have the power of an immediate feel-good effect.

So Many New Brands & Perfumes Releases. Our Picks.

Chiara: I am that type of person who is driven by a broad desire for discovery that makes me totally open, curious, and unfaithful when it comes to fragrances. So rather than a perfume choice, I would like to share one intense olfactory experience I had in 2023. It made me smile widely and intensely feel good. I was bewitched by Suncrest, by Uli Lang. One of his latest releases is a juicy and elegant peach, stirred with lemon and black currant, and blended with notes of jasmine. It also struck me as this fragrance is very different from what I usually wear. Nevertheless, it made my nose fall in love with its immediate feeling of bright sunshine and pure, uncompromising joy! Interestingly, the fragrance seems to have a connection with the Pantone colour 2023 Peach Fuzz.

Ermano: Rauque by Mr Greco. Having Master Perfumer Christopher Sheldrake pairing with an acclaimed photographer and visual artist like Roberto Greco is something in itself unique and unexpected. The result of this collaboration is truly mind-blowing or ‘nose blowing.’ Matching his blurred and oneiric photographic series, Rauque - the third Objet Parfumant by Mr. Greco is a whole immersive sensory experience that beguiles you with its Russian leather slap hidden behind a polished floral veil of soapy violets and waxy honeyed acacia. What a perfume!

Rauque Perfume Bottle by Mr Greco

Karen: I think there is so much creativity coming from so many different brands that I'd rather not single one out. Last year my travels took me to trade shows in Italy and Dubai, I visited the UK, I live in Paris and I'm in the shops to see what is happening. I can say there is a lot of imagination and ingenuity in our sector, and I just can't pick one brand over another!

Laurence: Mansa, finalist at the Art & Olfaction Awards 2023 by Pernoire. Inspired by the ruler of the 13th century Mali empire, its tale of wealth and generosity is beautifully translated into a scent. Mansa extrait de parfum masterfully mixes fruits, blackberry & cassis - with spices, saffron & pink pepper – powdery notes, orris & heliotrope & musk- with a final combination of oud & rose & amber & patchouli and moss. Mansa is ultimately daring, both majestic and philanthropic. The perfume gives a special aura to the person wearing it, making the individual more feminine, or more masculine, or simply with more personality. Mansa was developed by a 100% Swiss creative team made of Andreas Wilhem, the perfumer, and Nico Mannino & Robin Dünner, the brand founders. One of my favourite black and white pictures for Mansa is the one with Robin wrapped in a beautiful African fabric which turns out to be a shower curtain. A beautiful composition, a unique olfactive discovery and a perfect demonstration of creativity.

Robin Dünner’s own interpretation of Mansa.

Ingredients Historical Beauties. New Discoveries.

Chiara: I cannot extract one specific ingredient out of 2023, as I am always sniffing out and interested in new raw materials, in their peculiar facets, and innovative extraction methods. The world of ingredients is infinite, and my learning is endless. This is why I am always looking forward to Ermano's article on SIMPAAR. I read intently and digest easily the raw materials news that Ermano has skilfully and enthusiastically dissected for us.

Ermano: Without any doubt, the ingredient that made a strong signature around in perfumes in 2023 was ginger. It is a different ginger than the one of the past, based on new amazing and fresh extractions that boost the lip-smacking lemony, and aldehydic aspects of the root. What has been in the past decade for pink peppercorn and cardamom as trendy top notes, now is going to be all about ginger. I personally love it in particular as featured in the grown-up and chic gourmand creations built around tea notes.

Karen: I think it was a year that saw tremendous diversity in regard to ingredient trends, in terms of the development of proprietary ingredients and the exploration of upcycling by the fragrance and flavor houses. There is definitely something for all from the so-called "new gourmands" to vegetal notes to the new exploration of extinct flowers as an ingredient.

Laurence: Without hesitation, my heart goes to Cardamom and its beautiful complex essence. Cardamom is one of the world’s most ancient spice and one of the most expensive after saffron and vanilla. The ‘queen of the spices’ is home in India; Cardamom takes us to exotic and unknown destinations. It also destabilizes our common fragrance knowledge; we usually believe that freshness in a scent exclusively stems from the citrus, mint, or eucalyptus ingredients. Well, Cardamom does not belong to those families and yet its chemical formula magically contains all of them. It can therefore deliver a rich and intense feeling of greenness. Innovative extraction methods such as the one developed by Givaudan allow new olfactive nuances to the spice. Givaudan believes the Cardamom’s complexity allows for the creation of a new olfactive definition. A new code of freshness and elegance in a fragrance.

Green cardamom pods hold a promise of intense freshness

New Lands. Or Old ones. Forgotten. Revived.

Chiara: Geographically, there are many regions and nations that deserve our attention and that Essencional monitors. Asia because of its interesting growth prospects, but also because of its different cultures: the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures, and their relationship with the world of perfume. The Middle East with a strong sociocultural tradition in the use of perfume, and the rest of the East that has been the protagonist of fragrant trade routes, such as the frankincense route. However, I would like to bring the focus back to Italy. Not only for the aspects of tradition in terms of fragrance production, but also for the many Italian brands and the great wealth of outlets dedicated to the promotion of artistic perfumery. For example, the city of Milan has the highest density of artistic perfumeries compared to other European capitals, which is great news for those who visit the beautiful country and want to devote themselves to discovering independent brands from around the world!

Ermano: I will pick a region or even a continent, Asia. Like never before, Asia has been a bourgeoning field of interesting new brands and concepts with Chinese, Korean, and Japanese based brands. This will for sure blow new life in perfumery. The future is bright.

Karen: After spending about five minutes walking the fragrance portion of Beautyworld in Dubai, my eyes were opened to how important and how enormous the Middle East market is. We have neglected it in our coverage at Essencional and this will change in 2024. There is so much energy, so much heritage and such a passion for fragrance. It's not a new land, but rather one we have not sufficiently explored yet. Fragrance is ever present in daily life, it is part of hospitality, it is essential for grooming, and it is certainly a means of individual expression. A recent statistic revealed that fragrance sales at Dubai Duty Free (DDF) topped $370 million in 2023 vs $311 million in the prior year. Fragrance was the number one category, far outpacing makeup. There is much to learn from this market, much to discover and much to understand.

Laurence: my choice goes to Korea, a land with an old perfume tradition gone into oblivion which is now being revived. In Korea, going back in time to 500 B.C, perfumes had a prime role in the rituals of every-day life. Koreans used the power of scents to generate wellness by eliminating negative energies, purifying the mind, and protecting the body. At that time, the Korea Folk religion, a form of shamanism, believed in spiritual and natural energies influencing our physical world and having healing powers. Perfumes belonged to this universe, enacted both by monks and common men… Fast forward from the past to the present, Korea is widely known for its invention of K Beauty, for being a land with a high level of innovation. This is where new trends happen, where consumers rapidly and intensely embrace novelties made at home or from outside. Yet today the country's rich fragrance cultural heritage is still forgotten and unknown. Luckily, a handful of Korean creators have decided to put an end to the country's fragrance oblivion. Those entrepreneurs have launched their perfume company at home in Korea or where they live abroad, like the United States. While each brand tells a unique story with a specific angle, they all share a common inspiration from Korea history and cultural background.

A new sunrise of Korean perfumes.

Inspirational Quotes. Thoughts. Personal Expressions.

Chiara: A simple choice for me. An inspirational quote by a major celebrity “The search for perfume follows no other path than that of obsession”. Colette

Ermano: I am always on the look out of Christophe Laudamiel expressions. It is usually brilliantly articulated. This is one of my favourites:

"Your nose is made to smell; it won't get tired of it. Your brain might get tired like when learning a new language" Christophe Laudamiel

Christophe Laudamiel’s nose, ‘never tired’

Karen: When I interviewed Simon Brooke about his brand, Grossmith, he said something that really stuck with me.

"We had the sort of legitimacy that other brands craved, and some were inventing."

This quote succinctly summarizes what we see on the market that is the antithesis of authenticity and what consumers can see through. Take this sentence as a caveat in regards to honest storytelling.

Laurence: I had the opportunity to interview a young talented perfumer from Symrise who happens to be Italian like me. When she talks about her work developing perfumes, I could not help but notice how her body communicates happiness; her eyes are sparkling with enthusiasm and she smiles all the time... so I was not particularly surprised when she was asked about how her Italian heritage has an influence in her work; Margherita Carini expressed her thoughts in a sunny line:

‘To create happy fragrances, I explore journeys in my head using ingredients that I imagine to be smiling or try to write olfactory shapes that make me feel joyful.’ Margherita Carini, Symrise Perfumer

Our Top of the Pops Selection of Articles.

Chiara: 2023 has been a busy editorial year as we have covered major trade perfume fairs - Esxence, Pitti and Simpaar, renowned schools and perfumery courses - IPI, EPC Academy, as well as immersive exhibitions & experiences. We have also explored diverse cultural approaches to perfumery - the British Approach, new worlds - vegetable fragrances, flowers, coffee, and nations -Asia, Korea, Scandinavia. With such a rich editorial year, it is frankly impossible for me to choose one article only! I am fond of all our editorial offerings this year, as they provide a rich experience derived from the diversity of the Essencional team. The editors have different approaches, experiences, storytelling styles, but they do share a common point, their immense passion for the perfume industry.

Ermano: I pick ‘The Flowers of Good and Evil. Our New Eden Garden Temptations,’ written by Laurence for Essencional. I chose it as it reads smooth and gives a fresh take on the florals, an olfactory family too often dismissed as classically feminine, possibly a tad tedious. Well, now you can change your mind.

Karen: I would call out Ermano's article ‘Aromatic Brew: Exploring the Rich Tapestry of Coffee through Fragrances.’ He revealed legends behind this ingredient, at once familiar yet with unknown facets to discover. His article was an armchair olfactory journey that inspired me to search out the scents he described.

Laurence: My preference goes to the ‘British Approach to Perfumery’ written by Karen. I find her description of the land inner contrast brilliantly spot on. Great Britain is torn apart - and United (Kingdom) - between pomp and pageantry, of the stiff upper lip combined with a dose of Ab Fab and Mr. Bean. She depicts how, at once traditional and conservative, the Brits are also known for their eccentricity and quirky nature, which carries over into the world of fragrance. The country has one of the oldest continuously running perfume houses in the world. By the way, what is the value of a royal warrant? What does she mean by the ‘rise of the barber’? You will have the answer to all your questions in the five rich chapters of the British approach to perfumery…