Last Thursday, on 25th of April, the door to the Mall were opened wide to welcome all of the enthusiasts coming to Milan from all over the globe to discover what’s new and exciting in niche & artistic perfumery. It was the 11th edition of Esxence, this year held under a theme “inspiration flow”. I was on my way to Milan the day before the fair was starting and even though Poland and Italy don’t seem to be that far away on the map it took me almost 12 hours total to get there. 3 hours on a train to Berlin, 4 hours waiting for my flight, flight delay, transfer from the airport to Milano Centrale train station. It all adds up to a lengthy travel but it’s ok as I had a purpose and excitement for that travel.
I stayed at the Airbnb located just 10 minutes walking distance away from Piazza Lina Bo Bardi, where the fair venue is located. It was actually the same Airbnb I chose last year, the location was super convenient. So when Thursday came and after I had my breakfast and after I put on some nice clothes I headed for Esxence. Upon my arrival, couple of minutes before official opening, I met with Elena, The Plum Girl, who was waiting for me at the entrance. We haven’t seen each other for a whole year so it was a nice and happy reunion. I also met someone new that moment – Kate Nose, an Australian who is wishing to start her Youtube fragrance channel soon. It was her first Esxence.
After greeting with everyone we queued to collect our press badges, punctually at 10:00 there was an official opening speech, a symbolic ribbon was cut and the show was oficially open. But before I even starting to explore all the stands, together with Elena we stumbled upon another new face – Dana, known on Instagram as a_nose_knows and also contributing towards Cafleurebon editorial. We clicked very easily and so she became my next sister in l’eau. Now, on to the show we go.
Starting with Nishane, where as many as 6 new fragrances were presented. There was Ani, a spicy composition named after a great city locatated by the border between Turkey and Armenia and which today is a ghost town in ruin. Since their new collection is titled No Boundaries they decided to work on this project with Cecile Zarokian (who is Armenian). Next there was Unutamam, a rather animalic fougere by Miguel Matos (mostly known for being Fragrantica editor). On popular demand to have a Middle East oriented fragrance they made Nefs (Chris Maurice) which is a soft and plushy scent. They also introduced Safran Colognise, a variation on 2018’s Colognise as well as a line of demi-extrait: Muskane and Florane presented in cylinder-shaped bottles. That’s a lot to smell.
Then I went to meet Chiara Ronzani, founder of Extrait d’Atelier to smell a new fragrance in her line. Dedicated to beautiful gardens and the art of sculpting certain plants into natural decorations, Maitre Jardinier was born. It’s a beautiful green-floral scent which starts with a lot of verdancy with a bit of fresh juiciness, goes through a gentle floral heart of peony and leads you to the woody-ambery drydown with some incense in it. A truly pretty scent, ideal to wear right now in this weather.
At this point I made a friendly encounter with Nick Steward, founder of Gallivant. He came to Milan as a visitor just for 2 days but it was absolutely thrilling to see him again, half a year after Pitti Fragranze. He was very kind to allow me and Elena smell his upcoming perfume. Of course it’s another city but we cannot tell you what it is. You’ll have to be a tad more patient – the perfume will be released soon so keep your eyes and noses on a radar mode to not miss this perfume.
When I met with Nicolas Chabot, a guy behind Le Galion and Aether, I learned that the first brand is hiding a little bit in the background while the second one is doing perfectly fine and 2 new creations were launched for it. Aextra highlights a sandalwood molecule called Bacdanol while Suprae is an overdose of Akigalawood – a Givaudan captive creating modern patchouli notes. To my surprise even though both of these scents are based fully on synthetics they smelled more natural than some of the other fragrances I tested that day which is quite an intriguing conclusion for me.
At 1 PM I joined the annual announcement of the Art and Olfaction Awards finalists where to my great joy some of my friends were nominated. Tanja Bochnig for April Aromatics Irisistible and Hiram Green for Hyde. I wish both of them good luck, especially that the big winners are being revealed today, 2nd of May at the ceremony in Amsterdam. Maybe someday I’ll be able to attend it.
Early in the afternoon I met with Celine Verleure, Olfactive Studio founder in order to try their newest fragrances. First of all there’s a Sepia Collection which launched last September (but not at Pitti) so I didn’t have a chance to smell any of those. Chypre Shot was interesting take on this genre but with a coffee twist, Leather Shot turned out to be soft while Vanilla Shot was dark and liquorish. Any Esxence attendee could also have a preview sniff of 3 upcoming new scents in this collection: Violet Shot, Rose Shot and Iris Shot. The last one was my absolute favorite. Photographs for a new trio were made by Roberto Greco while scents are being developed by Dominique Ropion.
For Hiram Green it was the first time when he decided to show his all natural brand at an exhibition that is as big as Esxence. His stand was simple, had a clean layout which was great for taking photos. We’ve met before in Florence where he came as a visitor last time but I think it’s great he decided to have a stand this year. Hiram introduced a new fragrance called Lustre, an ode to a rose flower which I found to be very jammy and lush. He also decided to change a packaging for a white box with golden letters which sort of makes the packaging look more luxurious.
Close to the entrance was the booth of my friends from Carner Barcelona. Joaquim, one of the founders, introduced me to brand’s new Fresh Collection dedicated to Mediterranean coast. It consists of 3 perfumes: Bo-Bo, Salado and Fig Man. Those fragrances remain in the light, summery registers featuring citruses, marine notes making them great summer choices. He was also eager to guide me a couple of stands farther to a new brand called Beso Beach, which is a project done under their guidance for a famous night club. There are 3 fragrances representing morning, day and night – Bendito Beso, Beso Canalla and Beso Negro. I liked the 1st one a lot.
At the stand of Sarah Baker Perfume you could meet Sarah Baker herself and discover something new. First noticeable change is a brand new packaging which makes all of the fragrances look consistent. I was quite taken by Atlante, a scent that was created by Sarah McCartney. It was a lovely mineral take on marine theme with a bunch of fresh citrus notes and some floral nuances. And actually just a couple hours before I smelled it, this perfume was announced as one of Art and Olfaction Awards finalists. Also smelled Jungle Jezebel which gets lots of buzz lately. Didn’t like it.
At 3:30 PM I had a scheduled meeting with an old friend Megan who is with Atelier des Ors since few years ago. The brand was presenting 3 new fragrances at Esxence that create a brand new Riviera Collection. Riviera Drive, Pomelo Riviera and Riviera Lazuli are all about slow life, enjoying each moment of vacation and feeling lazy and carefree. I have to say that Atelier bottles, with gorgeously blue-tinted glass and white caps were the biggest piece of perfume bottle porn at Esxence. Fragrances were top notch too, as you could expect no less from Jean-Philippe Clermont and his team. I especially liked Pomelo Riviera and its refreshingly sour flavor.
Last activity for that day was to go to the conference hall and listen to a panel discussion titled “Do experts matter? Experimentation, expertise, and craft culture in the digital age”. It was moderated by Eddie Bulliqi. I wanted to listen to it because it seems to be a hot topic as of late to decide what makes one an actual expert and that this title is being given to people too easily but the discussion took a different turn. I just expected something different so in the end this panel didn’t satisfy me.
For the evening I decided to gather round a couple of good perfume souls so that we could have a dinner together. We ended up in a group of 10 people – perfumers, creative directors, fragrance evaluators and other people who simply love fragrance and write about them. So there was Elena, Ana from Ana y El Perfume and her sister, Dana, Tanja, Kate, Nick, Bibi. We went to a restaurant that was recommended by my Airbnb host. The food was absolutely delicious, the service was great and fast so we had a blast that evening. And so the Esxence day 1 came to an end. More to come!
See also impressions shared by Michelyn and Ida from Cafleurebon.