vendredi 29 octobre 2010

My Top Ten Perfumes of Autumn for 2010




I’m a cheat.
No, actually, were I cheating it would be to win, but just now I’m at a loss. Blogger’s syndrome, I’m afraid. 

If you’re testing so many new things that when you take a day off testing, you have no idea what you’d want to wear out of your own collection, you just go commando, or back to the latest test. Besides, as long as the scent isn’t reviewed, you can go on enjoying it: once your thoughts have been committed to words, you feel compelled to move on to the next vial. So sometimes, you hold back the review as long as you can.

It’s as though you were constantly running into intriguing strangers, not really knowing which would become friends or lovers, losing touch with the old ones. And when you’ve lost touch with something you wore fairly frequently – if only for testing purposes – during a spell, it becomes associated with that period. Thus: divorced from your life now. 

Andy Warhol used to wear a fragrance for, what was it? One month? And then label it, box it, and retrieve it now and then to relive the period, but never wear it again. I don’t even have that kind of method: my perfume-related memories are scrambled and haphazard, a collage of random moments in my life. Hence the fact that all of these selections but two are very recent launches (three aren’t even out yet -- I've already taken out a loan on the future.) 

Which of the associated memories are real, which are invented? I told you, I’m a cheat, and what I cheat on the most are my perfumes… This top 10 has got nothing to do with fall, just with falling in love… repeatedly.
I am an olfactory Casanova.



Midnight in Paris by Van Cleef and Arpels
What: The chicest mainstream launch of the season. Olivier Polge and Domitille Bertier lifted the rubbery black tea and styrax note from Bulgari Black, dipped it in balsams to tame its urban snarl and matched it with Dior Homme’s tonka and woods base. When remix is done that impeccably, it becomes a creature of its own.
When: Crossing over the Seine under a light drizzle in time to see the Eiffel tower put on her glittery disco cloak at the stroke of twelve.

Minuit Noir by Lolita Lempicka
What: This season’s limited edition reprises the success of the 2007 Caprice Réglisse: according to Annick Menardo, Minuit Noir goes straight to the essence of the original Lolita Lempicka: more jasmine, more iris and above all, more liquorice, a note Menardo loves for its burnt facets.
When: Dark, mouth-burning anger, chewy enough to feed me and invigorate me. The trashy fairy’s liquorice candy is an exhilarating potion.

What: Patchouli brings out cocoa’s inner animal. It’s sleek, but it bites.
When: Instead of dessert. Just zip me out of that chocolate leather skirt.

What: The 21st century’s answer to Eau Sauvage, Mathilde Laurent’s oddly compelling hesperidic-fougère-chypre leather hybrid that jumps over the hurdle of gender divide.
When: Walking briskly between Miromesnil station and the parc Monceau for an appointment on a crisp fall morning. Those last few minutes before I put on a professional show belong to me, to my moving body, my swiftness, the air.

Dzing! by L’Artisan Parfumeur
What: A whiff of manure, rough leather, wet Kraft cardboard, sleek-cat musk, this is scent-as-narrative, even if you don’t know the story spun by Olivia Giacobetti.
When: Monsieur sniffs distrustfully. “I don’t know about that fragrance you’re wearing. It’s somehow antiseptic.” I pull him in to breathe in my neck. My sillage: cresolic, and thus, labs and hospitals. My skin: musk and hay. “You should never wear this across the table from me”, says Monsieur. “Just up close.”

What: If perfume lovers test their mettle by the skank level they can endure, this could be the ultimate challenge: cumin-sweaty, civet-beastly, leather-kinky. I’ve been smelling it in the trail of a couple of boys and they definitely mark their territory. Delicious.
When: The artist Jean-Luc Verna (WARNING: Not an office-friendly link) skin embroidered with tattoos, glittering with piercings, is performing “Trust in Me” from The Jungle Book. He removes his neoprene shirt. A wave of fresh sweat, tinted with the faint rubberiness of neoprene, rides on a crest of male hormones while his bass voice vibrates all the way down my body to my zebra spike heels.

Les Ailes du Désir by Frapin
What: A burning whiff of cognac before you dive into the cask: this is boozy wood laced with spicy flowers. Bertrand Duchaufour’s first scent for Frapin will be out in November: stay tuned for a proper review.
When: The thermometer has dipped below zero Celsius outside the tiny garden guest house near Colette’s native village, but there’s a duvet, and there’s rum, and in the middle of the night his hand will reach out to me while he dreams, tender and impersonal.

What: Russian leather, mulled plum and violet wrapped in smooth waxy amber.
When: I wore it for Him, but He didn’t notice. I’d come to see the Wizard, had prepared my questions, but he was quicker than me and shot back with his own, and then questions were forgotten and we felt we’d always know each other, which was a wonderful lie, and I believed it.

What: The iris absolute is real. The rose and pistachio Turkish delight an olfactory illusion carried by a leather slap. A stunning balance of tart and sweet, raspy and smooth, yin and yang.
When: The pastry chef, who’s the nephew of the bride though he’s older than her, is leaning towards me, but he’s ogling the girl across the table, who’s wafting Dior’s brand-new amber-laden Mitziah. Thank God. Turkish delight plus a pastry chef would have been overdoing it.

Habanita by Molinard
What: A 1948 bottle of the extrait, authentified by a newspaper stuffed inside the box. Nitro-musks and musk ambrette make the vetiver, vanillin and coumarin pop out so vividly they take on the texture of a lioness’s pelt. The tobacco, leather (isobutyl quinolin) and oak moss base add their growl. This is what the tough girls picked over Shalimar back in the Jazz Age.
When: Fur wrap taken out for the first time this season over a garnet crushed velvet bias-cut shift, leaning against the wall outside the club, smoking with the boys, a little drunk, not caring much whose fingers it is that are running through my collar.


For more Top Tens, check out the usual suspects...



Perfume-smellin' Things


Photo by Deborah Turbeville


43 commentaires:

  1. Thanks for the list, Denyse; lots of interesting things to try there, not least the new L'Artisan.

    I know exactly what you mean about the blankness that washes out your brain on a (rare) day when you decide not to test a new scent. Not too long ago, I actually put aside a whole weekend for wearing something from my personal collection... and then I went and got a cold and couldn't smell a thing.

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  2. Persolaise, isn't it odd? But I've spoken to people who work in the perfume business, who have the same problem: unless they have a signature fragrance, they end up not knowing what to wear when they're not testing things under development.
    I'm thinking that at least as long as I enjoy the things I test (as I did this list), it's still all right. It's when it becomes a chore that I'll worry.

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  3. I love the list and I'm so happy now, a new Frapin created by B. Duchafour?! Oh, yes, yes, yes! :)

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  4. I'm lucky, I have some new vetiver-based attars from India to wear this fall, and one, co-distilled with tuberose, is the most bizarre, lovely thing I think I've ever smelled. And then there's Bas de Soie, which has become my go-to since this summer. So I've been practically monogamous with my perfumes, yikes! Love your list!
    -Marla

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  5. Fun list!

    Got around to trying Absolue Pour Le Soir and a little baffled by those who find it skanky, though. On me it was a pretty little ode to honey - some skank would have made me like it more, but I just couldn't smell any. Still, a good fall scent in any case, though!

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  6. Ines, thanks, and yes, the Frapin is really good...

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  7. Marla, the vetiver-tuberose combo reminds me of Ego Facto's Me Myself and I, which I thought was a really good idea.

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  8. Sugandaraja, as you know the skankometer has different settings for everyone!

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  9. Oooooh... love your "when" scent pictures. Thanks for those.

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  10. I'll be sure to send you a vial of the tuberose/vetiver before I bail your lovely continent!
    -Marla

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  11. Muse, as I'd reviewed about half of these already I needed something else to have fun with!

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  12. Oh, I love the stories you wove for us! Wonderful. And here are several things I haven't even tried yet, including (for shame) Boxeuses, which I think sounds like something I will love.

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  13. I'm revisiting Serge Lutens Douce Amere and Chypre Rouge after a few years now that autumn is finally here, and I forgot how great they are.

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  14. March, why "for shame"? It's not like Boxeuses was readily available to all, but, yes, there's quite a chance you'd love it.

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  15. Uella, I had Chypre Rouge and didn't keep it, and Douce Amère, somehow, never got properly tried out... But both are perfect for fall, aren't they?

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  16. Chypre Rouge meshes beautifully with the spectular autumn foliage, Douce Amere captures that introspective feeling of the fall season, contemplative and melancholic yet comforting. The new version of Douce Amere is less gourmand and a little more well-balanced than older batches. I think Serge Lutens also reformulated and improved Datura Noir.

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  17. Uella, it's a good thing if IFRA-enforced reformulations actually improve products -- at least in the case of Serge Lutens, they're carried out under his supervision.

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  18. I think the reformulations in this case worked because the original Douce Amere was a little too sweet and Datura Noir too rich, indeed Serge Lutens did a job here, that being said I hate IFRA-enforced reformulations.

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  19. eleven european mystics30 octobre 2010 01:02

    amazing post, for the writing no less than for the choice. as a perfume lover i'd line myself up in the queue behing Andy Warhol, although some fragrances subdue me. The dialogue with Monsieur, the fingers in the collar, the chef patissier transform perfume into a flame, although it usually comes in liquid form

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  20. Denyse I love the list it is bold and varied. I want to try quite a few, at least a sample because some are a little steep. I also have been really loving small artisanal perfumers here in the states.

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  21. Well, your list certainly has me impatient to try the ones that haven't yet been released or that I simply haven't gotten around to trying. But no Portrait of a Lady?

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  22. Uella, from what I gather Mr. Lutens sometimes turns the obligation into an opportunity to fine-tune.

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  23. EEM, do you know the poem "L'image" by Pierre Reverdy?

    "L’image est une création pure de l’esprit.
    Elle ne peut naître d’une comparaison mais du rapprochement de deux réalités plus ou moins éloignées.
    Plus les rapports des deux réalités rapprochées seront lointains et justes, plus l’image sera forte – plus elle aura de puissance émotive et de réalité poétique."

    That's a little bit what I was trying to do. Just a little bit.

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  24. Taffynfontana, I definitely know what you mean about the steep prices -- the Cartiers I've got only tiny decants of... And I'm not seeing full bottles in the future. But quite a few of these are more accessible.

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  25. Carter, someone asked me about Portrait of a Lady too on the French side. The thing is I tried to stick to things I'd wear for my own pleasure if I weren't testing most of the time, and I'm not into rose at all, it just doesn't feel like me. So that even though I find Portrait of a Lady superb, I wouldn't pick it on a day off. No reflection on its gorgeousness.

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  26. I didn't know the poet nor the poem, and i'm glad to be aware of both now, but i admit to having suspected for a long time that metonymy is stronger than metaphor.
    Now, of course, i'm sad because i still don't have a clue about the new Heures de Cartier, of which the cocoa/patchouli one sounds as if invented specifically for me.
    Patience, I say to myself,patience...

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  27. EEM, the poem is from 1918, was a major influence on Surrealism and has been quoted in Jean-Luc Godard movies: you could say it is the program of the Surrealist collage or of Godard's techniques of alternating seemingly unrelated images so that one can shed light on the other.
    This can be applied to perfume, both in descriptions and in the discovery of new accords: a match both remote and accurate.

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  28. i'm happier to have learned about him than I am sad for not having known about him. Off we go to the Librairie du Foyer, a block away from me, to purchase whatever they have by him. And they have much, or the Institut Francais, where I haven't been for quite a while.

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  29. EEM, then you'll be richer than me: I only have that one poem which I found online after having discovered a verse in the fabulous new Godard bio. But Reverdy is a fascinating character, and was Chanel's great friend.

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  30. The following comment was forwarded by email by Victoria of Bois de Jasmin:

    "I love this list, which as always, includes some really interesting perfumes. You have a really great way of feeling seasonality and matching it with scents. Sometimes, it is very surprising, but always refreshing. :)"

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  31. Thank you V. I'm seeing a lot of leather in there, and their usual partners-in-crime, burnt notes. I guess that's my autumn vibe. It'll probably segue into winter.

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  32. I am so fascinated by Warhol's approach. Would love to see a list of what he wore when, or read a bio with all the scents keyed in. Your own vignettes are probably more interesting, though!

    We owe a debt, really, to the creative discipline that it takes to test scents for review. I had the tiniest taste of that when you organized the HdP Vamp a NY test and I felt such an obligation to you, HdP and the perfumer to give Vamp the attention it deserved.

    You must feel a responsibility that can be heavy at times, having met the perfumers and understanding deeply the talent and dedication that it takes to create and market olfactory works of art, in these times when more money can be made so much more easily. Am feeling fortunate that your own duende propels you to honest and artful reviews. ~~nozknoz

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  33. Nozknoz, it's true, I do feel a heavier burden of responsibility knowing some of the people behind the scents, knowing that many of them read me. I also know enough about what goes on behind the scenes to be aware that a lot of work can be done on something that comes out half-baked, that gorgeous versions can be discarded... Things that are literally heart-breaking to smell because they are still-born. And that's duende.

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  34. Ah, loving perfumes IS heart-breaking - like people, they age, die young and get bad plastic surgery. I always remember being stunned by your observation that someday you will be a Mitsouko widow. But they are also born - and by writing you are doing something to nurture talent. ~~nozknoz

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  35. Nozknoz, from your lips to Mary Magdalene's ears! (she's in charge of the perfume business up there, and I hope she's not falling asleep at the command post...)

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  36. D, I'm with you on the leather, and burnt notes, love your mises en scenes!

    XXX

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  37. What a beautiful post! Effortlessly poetry, a piece of beauty here. What's going with the girls this fall, love and bit of craziness, blossoming feelings….
    And I hate it when you are already in love with perfumes that did not make it even on the market yet (Frapin) ;-)
    Not talking that I die to smell Boxeuses.

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  38. Denyse, I love your choices for Autumn. I am pretty much inspired to browse my old stuff - and perhaps to acquire new. Especially the Frapin one tickles my virtual nose here.
    Kind regards, Martina
    http://duftreise.blogspot.com/

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  39. Wendy, somehow the burnt goes with the time of year and a little with my scorching mood!

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  40. Maria, the Frapin was due to come out earlier but I think they hit a little technical snag and had to delay the launch... Hope they do it quick, my preview sample is running out!

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  41. Martina, ditto about the Frapin... and I wish I had the luxury to browse my old "library" -- I do it all the time with books. I'm not even testing all the new stuff, but what there is on my desk is keeping me busy...

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