jeudi 22 octobre 2009

My Top Ten Fragrances for Fall 2009


Pulling out the deeper scents is just about my only consolation for saying goodbye to the long days, light dresses and bare legs of the Indian summer. I’m re-reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, listening to Monteverdi’s Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and to the Shangri-Las. My current obsession is with leather and smoke. The stance is tough and smoldering: I’ve had no time for pretty lately. Seduction, certainly: but on my own terms. Remember that Garbage song, “I’m only happy when it rains”? That’s not me. But I’m making do with beauty. Here’s my top ten for fall.



1/Guerlain Mitsouko (pre-reformulation): Needs no presentation. You either get it or you don’t. One of the few that can make me utter strings of four-letter words in utter delight, or go weak at the knees; the one I’d shoot back at anyone who says perfume can’t be art. Using up my decent, but not endless stash of the pre-reformulated version may be the ultimate expression of the poignant, perishable, ephemeral nature of perfume: a luxurious waste of my most precious olfactory be(long)ing, vanishing into thin air, burned into my mind. One day I’ll be a Mitsouko widow.


2/Serge Lutens Féminité du Bois: This one was saved from the IFRA vandals, barely scathed, by Serge Lutens. I own and wear both the original version and the reformulated one. The latter may have lost some of the former’s heft but I’m fully happy with its dusky topaz and amethyst radiance: it’s still the tersely elegant contrapuntal harmony of cedar and candied fruit that pierced the Angel/L’Eau d’Issey haze in 1992 and established Serge Lutens’ voice as one of the most original in contemporary perfumery.


3/Estée Lauder Knowing: Like all the great, quintessentially American Estée Lauder classics, this one’s got serious sillage and it makes no apologies for it. Why should it? It’s all woman, way past voting age and it’s not going to apologize for that either. A refugee from the era when mainstream brands had balls: a Hummer-sized rose with a bitter, mossy streak – think of a heated field in mid-summer, with that slightly animal scent you get from drying weeds. Spices? Fruit? Incense? What’s in that brew? All or none of the above? Knowing keeps you guessing, just like a grown woman should.


4/ Chanel Cuir de Russie: The leather of reference now that Hermès Doblis and Lanvin Scandal have joined the scrap heap of perfume history: a warm, smooth texture pricked with aldehydes, to let the coolness of iris air out an almost stable-like pungency. One of the oldest gender-benders in the repertoire, and still a defiant gesture.


5/Le Labo Patchouli 24: With its vanilla-gaiac-birch tar burn, Annick Menardo’s riff on phenols and balsams feels comforting, brainy and hard-bitten all at once – as though an Angel mama slipped out to read Saint Augustine in between serving crèmes brûlées by a roaring fire.


6/Cartier XIII – La Treizième Heure: My gushing on Mathilde Laurent’s ode to smoke – a splash of Lapsang Souchong on a leather jacket, complete with the cold bite of zippers – is so recent I’ll just ask you to click here to know why you’ll love it.


7/Bulgari Black: Like La Treizième Heure, Black is a modern, urban take on the Shalimar template – in my review I called it a “Shalimar for replicants”, and I’m still pretty happy with that definition. The smell of headlights bouncing off wet pavement on a rainy October night.


8/Chanel Sycomore: Vetiver is one of the most gorgeous materials in perfumery, and barely needs dressing up, but in Sycomore, Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake have streamlined its smoky earthiness until each of its facets shine through.


9/ The Different Company Oriental Lounge: Céline Ellena doesn’t like orientals, so her take on the genre sets off the aromatic warmth of labdanum with the decidedly un-classic, raspy green caloupilé (i.e. curry) leaf and a butch, woody red rose. This is the Orient with minimal arabesques and no navel rhinestone in sight.


10/ Prada L’Eau Ambrée: Daniela Andrier’s sly aura of a scent starts off with juicy mandarin before weaving a haze of gardenia and ambergris so immaterial it feels practically subliminal at times. Possibly the best mainstream launch this fall.



For more Fall 2009 Top Ten selections, please click on the following links:


Bois de Jasmin

Now Smell This

The Perfume Posse

Perfume-smellin’ Things




Image: Yves Klein, Peinture-Feu (1961)

32 commentaires:

  1. Sycomore is probably the closest to what I am generally drawn to these days, but how can one not admire, even if theoretically, the rest of them.

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  2. Cuir de russie was one of my mothers favourites from her youth - when they relaunched it I travelled to the Chanel boutique in Bond Street to buy her a bottle for Christmas - since her death I am slowly finishing off the bottle myself and it never fails to surround me in the warm comforting smell of autumn/winter and Christmas nights - absolutely wonderful fragrance!

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  3. Marina, I definitely try to apply the "theoretical admiration principle" nowadays, even if this selection is more about what I feel like wearing.

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  4. Violetsrose, CdR is one of my all-time favorites. Enjoy it, and the memories it summons, in good health and happiness!

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  5. Sigh. What a wonderful, evocative list of things. And I love your inclusion of Mitsouko. Someday I too suspect I will be a Mitsouko widow, and that will be a very sad day indeed.

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  6. Ah! We are indeed on the same page, as I'm wearing a bit of my Cuir de Russie parfum as I type this, and looking forward to obtaining more Sycomore. Such a delicious, nutty, wool sweater of a vetiver. So of course I'll have to seek out Oriental Lounge and the new Cartier's now.

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  7. Ditto on Cuir de Russie and Patchouli 24. And I LOVE the Yves Klein image!

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  8. March, I was dithering about including Mitsouko since I can't really suggest it to anyone, but I *have* been wearing it. I mean, if I don't, it'll just go bad, won't it?

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  9. Alyssa, it was a toss-up between Sycomore and Vétiver Tonka, I'll admit!

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  10. Vetivresse, well, as I was at the FIAC I saw a couple of Yves Klein "fires" and it seemed fitting...

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  11. Oh, D, your list is smokin'. You've got me a bit entangled with the 13th hour--whenever you bring it up, I stop and think and ponder and daydream. Really must find some of that to sample.

    And I think that the draining of a perfume...slowly, fully aware...is the act of momento mori that helps define the art. Even in the age of mechanical reproduction, there is no way to fully capture the experience of a fantastic live musical performance, for example...you have to be there...and by witnessing, by partaking, as it were, you seal its reality (even as you seal its fate).

    Okay, that was deep. Back to my regular yammering. Though I have to say you and March would be Mitsouko widows that fully give honor to the spouse.

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  12. ScentScelf, you're right, the memento mori is part of the art. I just wish it weren't... Though I hope neither me nor March feel compelled to jump into the funeral pyre as we dab on our last drop of Mitsouko. I love smoke, but not *that* much.

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  13. LOL! And, to be sure, I'd rather have both of you dancing around the bonfire than being all sacrificial.

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  14. And let's toss each and every IFRA amendment into it!

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  15. So glad to see Oriental Lounge...was going to try it tonight, and prefer my orientals w/o navel rhinestones.

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  16. Robin, that's exactly what I like about it. It's very dense for a TDC but totally un-chichi.

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  17. Dear D, your list is very elegant! Ah, your fall is already turning cold and dreary, whereas we are finally experiencing some warmth after a dreadful summer. I have been dressed more summer like these days than 2-3 months ago.
    I simply cannot get into any of the recent Prada fragrances, but your comment on L’Eau Ambrée made me want to give it another try. I will let you know how it works out.

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  18. Dear V., I was very lukewarm about the Pradas until this one. It's got interesting effects in its development and volume. Probably the next duty-free full bottle purchase for me! Let me know what you think.

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  19. i did not know Mitsouko had been reformulated...now i understand why i am not allergic to it anymore. years ago i could not wear it on my skin without getting a skin rash. i was given a bottle of the parfum more recently and to my surprise, it did not give a rash. Mitsouko is the only perfume from Guerlain i still really love (i wore Shalimar for years but have gone off it).

    as for Cuir de Russie, it is a scent i associate mostly with men and i have never smelled the Chanel version but from time to time i give my boyfriend "Parfum d'habit" from Maître Parfumeur et Gantier which is very much a Cuir de Russie. it suits him like a second skin...

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  20. Good heavens, I must try Knowing next time I'm at Macy's or KMart (thanks to Google) -- I'm such a perf snob I can't imagine liking anything there! I have Fall Envy after reading a list like yours -- I've been spraying all over with a Vintage Mitsouko "Deodorant" gift hoping it will coax Fall out here, to no avail. I can't wait to wear more of my Or Black either. Some day I'll post to my blog more than twice a year and join in the fun ; ) Happy Fall to you from 90 degree late October..........

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  21. Columbine, well at least one person is happy with the new Mitsouko... If I only known that one I may have liked it but as it is, it's sadly a letdown...
    Do try the Chanel CdR, it's a lot less rough than the other formulas which I agree veer towards the masculine.
    And as for Maitre Parfumeur, I'd advise you to stock up, because the company seems to be on the fritz (at least that's the word out on the Paris perfume streets).

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  22. Wendy, yes, do get back to that blog, and do try Knowing. The Lauder classics are all outstanding.

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  23. I was so involved in thinking about Moi that I neglected to say how much I enjoy your writing. And I just read La Fanfarlo after you cited it in a blog, loved it! Trying it in French next ; )

    I love Youth Dew, and Private Collection (the Grown Up Scent of my youth) what others are great?

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  24. I just found you blog and love it. keep up the good work.

    http://sparklemidori.blogspot.com

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  25. Wendy, you need to hunt up the original Azurée as well: fierce aromatic chypre. You probably won't like Pleasures but it's a template for so many contemporary scents it's just ridiculous, and White Linen is a masterpiece though not your style either I suppose.

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  26. it would be a real pity about MPG because not only do i like Parfum d'Habit but my favourite purely floral perfume for daily is "Jardin Blanc", to my mind a perfect floral perfume (delicate, neither too sweet nor too "capiteux", it just gets the balance right).
    does Jean-François still make perfumes? i know he does not make perfumes for MPG anymore.

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  27. Columbine, I don't know about Jean-François Laporte, I'll try to find out more.

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  28. My favorite of all the fall lists! I appreciate the connection between Black and Shalimar...hadn't caught that. I just recently tried Knowing for the second time and liked it much better than the first. I think my nose is maturing from years of fruity florals. Yes, it is perfect for fall, as are all the others.

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  29. Thanks D, I've wondered about Azuree, I remember my Mom wearing it, but it was too grown up for me somehow, not anymore!

    Yes, I know about Pleasures and White Linen, but haven't been able to bring myself to seek them out, I suppose KMart and Dept Stores will do for these too ; )

    I'm totally with you on burning through our Vintage scents, I've made the same decision! And there still IS ebay for the time being -- going to check now!

    I love your tips!

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  30. Thanks Carla. Knowing is a real (re)discovery for me!

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  31. Wendy, burning through may be a bit of an overstatement, and I can't access eBay US (thanks to a court decision for LVMH, all the foreign perfume ads are blocked on French computers), so my collecting has ground to a halt... Bygones.

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