Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006: Fragrance Year-in-Review...or Half-Year, Anyway

I've been keeping lists of my favorites ever since I started sampling back in April of this year. I've even posted some of them here, or posted some as responses on other perfume blogs. Every time I make a list it changes, but still, I feel confident about this one. In the last few weeks I revisited some of the fragrances that were early loves, and some that weren't. My, how quickly tastes change. I would like to say my nose is more discerning and my taste more sophisticated because of it, but let's face it: it could just be the weather.

Here are my Top Ten, selected from fragrances I've sampled this year. Rather than write new blurbs, I've quoted my original posts out of sheer laziness. Drum roll, please:

1. Guerlain Vol de Nuit: "This pungent powder, soft and alluring, is even better than I remembered. The opening is a soft, grassy citrus with just a hint of sharpness, but it moves quickly into the middle notes, which temper the green and start the descent into a soft heady powder with a twist of something--I suppose I should say animalic, but seriously, what I think is sex. This scent is alluring and sensual, but also comforting. I don't think, in my brief sampling time, that I've ever smelled jasmine this way, so evenly present among a deep spice that quiets into powdery notes that make you feel as though you'd been lifted into the clouds." No surprise here, except to tell you I am now the very lucky owner of the Parfum. I still don't believe it.

2. Frederic Malle Iris Poudre: "It's proud and comforting at the same time, both soft and strong, yet not aggressive, like a mother lion with her cubs. She's tender and caring, but still, you know her power. Through the blend of six simple notes, Iris Poudre manages to reach that exquisite grace that takes other perfumes tens of notes to achieve." No surprise here, either. In my limited sampling experience, the second-most exceptional perfume, and given my mood, sometimes even the first.

3. Rochas Femme: "The bergamot and lemon dominate the top on my skin, while the soft bitterness of apricot compliments the leather accord that reigns through the full cycle. In the middle I don't get much of the floral notes; the jasmine is lost on me, and the rose appears later on, but the ylang-ylang and clove warm and spice the heart. The dry down is beautiful, a soft woody leather, supple and aged. I suppose I could best explain it this way: imagine a piece of the finest leather, and on it someone has sprayed the most exquisite perfume. That is Femme." This one definitely snuck up on me. This perfume is the reason I know my taste (or sense of smell, or both) has developed over the last seven months.

4. Ormonde Jayne Frangipani: "I’m at my desk, and I can smell the cedar. (Mind you, I have not even looked the notes up at this point! But I can smell it!) And I wonder, where is that coming from? I kept getting whiffs of it every now and again, the softest incense. And lo and behold, when I looked up the notes, there it was: cedar, tempered with this lovely vanilla and amber. I usually find vanilla overpowering, but this is so soft, it’s truly lovely." Oh my, the words of a perfume amateur! I'm wearing this right now. I think all the sampling has only made me love it more.

5. Santa Maria Novella Citta di Kyoto: "Citta di Kyoto smells nothing like any of the scents I listed here, but it shares the same spirit. It's more ethereal, a brighter floral at the top that seems deceptively sweet. The fruit and cinnamon of this scent warm its heart perfectly. You'll find heart notes listed for any number of fragrances, but in this case it seems so true. Think of a package, wrapped in beautiful paper, a paisley of dark orange, pale green, and white. Tear away the paper and find a box, a dark, polished wood box, hand-crafted with clean, simple lines. Open the box and find there nested in brown velvet a heavy, handblown piece of glass fruit. Set it in a window, watch the light shine through and change through the day, shifting somehow from amber, to blood-red purple." Move over Chinatown. This is everything an oriental fragrance should be and then some.

6. Serge Lutens Miel de Bois and Fleurs d'Oranger.
Miel de Bois: "I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. How on earth could anyone say this stinks? Why do people hate this? Why do people think the dry down is the best? How could people like any one part of this experience better than another when it’s all so amazingly wonderful?"
Fleurs d'Oranger: "This citrus is not sharp or acidic, but fresh and softened by the most delicate tuberose. No bludgeoning here. If this isn’t a typical citrus fragrance (sometimes with citrus scents I feel as though someone’s sprayed the actual juice directly in my face before the other notes move in and take over), it isn’t a typical white floral either. The neroli and the rose keep the tuberose and jasmine from turning creamy, preserving the quality of a fresh cut bloom."
These two scents couldn't be more different, but I love them both equally. It was also hard not to squeeze in Daim Blond. A funny note about my post on Fleurs d'Oranger: it has a list of my current favorites!

7. Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Therese: "This scent opens with tangerine and melon at the top, with carnal rose and plum in the heart, and cedar, vetiver, and leather in the base. The tangerine overpowers the melon note for me (which is not a problem), and the leather is prominent and lovely from the open. The vetiver is not sharp but rather herbal in feel, a little watery and salty beneath the tangerine. The leather tempers it and keeps away the celery note so many people dread. It takes a while (about an hour) for the rose and plum to emerge for me, and along with them the cedar. The plum is not juicy or dark, but instead serves to sweeten and warm the rose and cedar just enough to make them more prominent. But make no mistake about it, this is a leather scent: soft yet supple leather, refined and lovely." Elegant, understated, and would be at the number 2 spot easily if it weren't for Iris Poudre.

8. Balmain Jolie Madame: "It's foody and woodsy at the same time, with a depth that almost enables you to smell roots and dirt. In a typical white floral, the entrance of jasmine and tuberose in the middle notes would produce a scent that people often find headache-inducing (as in: my worst enemy is pounding on my head with a large mallet). The jonquil and orris, however, keep it dirty and earthy, so these white flowers smell as though they'd been buried in deep earth for days." Come on: white flowers and leather. This is a very recent favorite, but I feel quite confident in saying its spot in the Top Ten shall always remain.

9. L'Artisan Orchidee Blanche: "And to go straight for a beautiful honey scent, all you have to do is reach for Orchidée Blanche. A blend of magnolia, iris powder, and honey, Orchidée Blanche is floral, understated, elegant, and sexy. It’s the finest down comforter and silk sheets, luxurious and soft." This is such a soft, alluring scent. Don't let them discontinue it!

10. Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose: "The vanilla still let out slightly liquory (liquor-like? liquorish?) fumes, but the rose note was more detectable to my nose than it had been for the first few hours. This is no fresh pastel bouquet in a silver vase; it's a florist's box full of thorny blood-red blossoms tossed carelessly atop the chaise longue by someone so used to being admired, she's started to take it for granted. The scent settled into this pattern for the rest of the day. I never detected even the slightest hint of vetiver. A scent could not be less sharp or green or earthy than this one. Lipstick Rose is the scent of elegant artifice, a glamorous mask that feigns indifference while underneath, it endlessly yearns to be noticed." As much as I love rose, this is the only real rose fragrance to make the list. Nothing else compares to this one.

Others I love that didn't make the Top Ten because I was trying to limit myself and I'm sure I'll regret not including:
1. Mona di Orio Nuit Noire
2. Guerlain Parure
3. Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque
4. Frederic Malle Carnal Flower
5. Delrae Bois de Paradis
6. Serge Lutens Daim Blond and Mandarine Mandarin
7. Anne Pliska
8. Parfums d'Empire Ambre Russe
9. Ormonde Jayne Champaca
10. L'Artisan Dzongkha

"Popular" fragrances I love or want:
1. Narciso Rodriguez For Her EDT (Want)
2. Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely Liquid Satin (Own)
3. Clinique Happy Heart (Own)
4. Benefit Maybe Baby (Own)
5. Hanae Mori Butterfly (Want)
6. Hilary Duff With Love (Want...I know, I know...I want a small bottle. I'm sorry, but the drydown on this is pretty. It just is.)
7. Prescriptives Calyx (Own)
8. Chanel Coco (Want, especially the parfum, which I have never tried. I used to wear this all the time, back in the day.)

My favorite perfumer over-all (so far): Frederic Malle

My fondest wish: That all of you, Dear Readers, have a safe and happy New Year and a wonderful 2007!

What are your favorite things, fragrance or otherwise, from this year?

*see original posts for photo credits