vendredi 29 décembre 2017

The 10 Denchest Scents of 2017

One of the few bright-ish sides of this dismal year comes from the perfume industry: we have officially reached Peak Sweet. There’s no way to add more ethyl maltol than there is in the more recent olfactory confectionaries without the stuff precipitating to the bottom of the bottle. Of course, that won’t keep perfumers from pursuing “addiction” – the word that’s replaced “gourmand”, as though drugs had less of a negative connotation than food. But their research is venturing beyond praline and macarons, veering into roasted (nuts, coffee, chocolate) and salty notes. There you have it: that’s pretty much as excited as the perfume world has made me in 2017.

I did find out about a fragrance whose name is my new motto: Stay Dench. “Dench” being a synonym for “sick” (which means “nice” in English slang), “used for saying that someone or something is extremely attractive, fashionable, impressive, etc.” according to the Macmillan online dictionary. Launched by grime star Lethal Bizzle, the word springs directly from Judi Dench’s unimpeachable badassery. It is now the name of a brand and a fragrance (if you’ve smelled it, please report) for which Dame Judith teamed up with Lethal Bizzle for a first lesson in rap. So I’ll just leave this here before moving on to my favorite launches of 2017.

So, what made my nose go "Pow!" in 2017?

Nuit de Bakélite by Isabelle Doyen for Naomi Goodsir nips tuberose’s criminal intentions right in the bud, turning niche’s fetish flower into a venomous stem oozing Day-glo sap. One of the year’s most striking olfactory signatures.

L’Âme Perdue by Rodrigo Flores Roux for Le Galion is a ghost ship of a scent, haunted by the glamorous specter of Prunol – Femme’s spice-sweating goddess by way of the turgid, incense-veiled lilies Rodrigo does so well.

Le Cri de la Lumière by Marc-Antoine Corticchiato for Parfum d’Empire resonates like a crystal chrysalis shattering to reveal a break in the Corsican’s saturated, balls-to-the-wall olfactory style. A mossy rose chypre base drenched in opalescent ambrette, as delicately unheimlich as a pastel by Redon.

Lui by Delphine Jelk for Guerlain tugs out a seldom-celebrated strand of Jacques Guerlain’s heritage. The red carnation that burns at the heart of L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko lights up the sweet fumes of benzoin. As retro as the black Deco bottle it filched from Liu, with a contemporary, pared-down build.

Eau de Velours by Michel Almairac for Bottega Veneta has turned out to be my go-to of the year. Meant as a variation on the initial Bottega Veneta, this “velvet water” has the texture of a wine-hued rose petal.

Light Blue Eau Intense by Olivier Cresp for Dolce & Gabbana reboots the brand’s crown jewel, in this first flanker since its acquisition by BPI/Shiseido. Cresp’s tweaks don’t alter the original’s utterly perfect balance: Magritte’s giant green apple hovering between sky and sea, held up by a force field of translucent woods.

Wicked Love, by Maison Margiela (nose not disclosed) is pitched as “gun metal and roses”. It comes off as a mutant descendant of Rive Gauche and Coriandre: a rose oxide and vetiver axis, incongruously topped off with a green pepper note. A neo-noir scent, well in keeping with its early 70s, “forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown” sensibility.

Une Amourette de Roland Mouret, by Daniela Andrier for État Libre d’Orange. Straying from her impeccable Prada Infusion accord, Andrier gets down and dirty for the ELO x Mouret collab. She states she went for a scent in red and black. Pepper-sprinkled, incense-cured patchouli in full camphor mode meets indole-boosted neroli.  The name means “a fling”. Clearly, it’s a fling with rough trade.

2015 Le Phénix, by Michel Almairac for Les Bains Guerbois, an establishment previously known as Les Bains Douches, Paris’ 80s answer to Studio 54. Le Phénix is a more intense version of the cologne launched by the new owner to salute Les Bain’s rebirth as a boutique hotel, a smoldering spice and incense rework of Almairac’s 2003 Gucci pour Homme.

Miss Me by Annick Menardo for Stella Cadente is actually a rediscovery I made while interviewing the perfumer for the 4th issue of Nez (click here to find out more). Inspired by Patou’s Huile de Chaldée, which she wore on the beaches of her native Cannes as a teen, it’s the only scent of hers Menardo actually wears. Sadly launched by a brand too small to follow through – it deserved to become a bestseller – the eccentric balsamic blend can still be sourced online. Nab it.

You’ll find more yearly round-ups with the usual suspects:

Meanwhile, my best wishes for a dench 2018.

Top illustration drawn from the Fish Love campaign to protect the seas from destructive fishing.

23 commentaires:

  1. We have some common choices on the list :)

  2. Lovely list of "secret" perfumes - I am particularly keen to sniff Wicked Love and relive my youth! And how I agree with you about the excess of SWEET! I never want to smell ethyl maltol again.

    I am a huge fan of Dame Judi who is unique; in my imagination a perfume created for her would be icy and fiery, soft and bitter .... a composition of opposites. You can imagine how thrilled I was to discover years ago that I was wearing in a play a costume that had once been hers!

    Wishing you all that is good for 2018.


    1. Wearing one of Dame Judi’s costumes is right dench! She is the Empress of Silver Foxes and I am her devoted silver-maned subject.

  3. You and she are both absolutely beautiful with your silver hair - like the Snow Queen!

    1. Thank you. Wish my friend's daughter were of the same opinion: she thinks I'm a witch! Snow Queen, at least, fits the current Canadian weather better.

  4. Your lists are always great

  5. Réponses
    1. I miss blogging too, but... ugh, back to grading my students' finals!

  6. Merci pour cette belle liste et tous mes voeux à vous pour cette nouvelle année Denyse.

    Je suis heureux de voir dans la liste un parfum des Bains Guerbois.Si la presse et le site AuParfum en ont parlé, cette marque est encore assez peu connue.
    Pour ma part, j'ai apprécié 2 créations : Le Phénix (cité par vous) et 1978 (créé en souvenir des Bains douches que, vu mon âge, j'ai apprécié en son temps).

    Entre Almairac et Duchauffour, le choix s'est avéré difficile.Finalement, j'ai opté pour...les 2 lol...

    1. Deux grands! Bien que les odeurs que j'ai connues à l'époque aux Bains aient été plus... poudrées!

  7. Dear Denyse,
    It’s been awhile, yet I always follow your blog. I now permanently live in Austin and niche perfumes are nowhere near.
    I am intrigued by Nuit de Bakélite.
    I stick to my gardenias and tuberoses and remain faithful to my old classics. La Panthère is among my new favorites and I get so many compliments each time I wear it.
    I wish you a lovely new year. May 2018 always be kind to you.
    Baisers parfumés

  8. Dear Rebecca, it's so lovely to hear from you! I heard you'd moved from your former colleagues, and wish you the very best in this new life... I adore La Panthère! Not surprised you do too.
    Bises back!

  9. oh the days when lutens ended up on all the end of year top ten lists...

    1. True. Lots of competition these days, though nothing as mind-blowing as those first Lutens...

  10. Denyse, thanks to you I had a Dench week listening to Grime in my German whip! Lmao I've been reading perfume blogs all night to try to avoid a perfume binge. Sometime this afternoon I decided I absolutely had to have the rerelease of Cory's La Rose Jaqueminot. Reading about perfume rather than buying it almost worked. I have successfully left the La Panthere for another day. But I had to try the David Yurman limited edition rose/oud. Thank you so much for taking my confession. 😂 I hope you have a lovely weekend!

  11. Ugh, thanks auto-correct! *

  12. Gad, I wish that worked for food, but reading recipes puts my keyboard in jeopardy, from all the drool...
    You know, sometimes, tracking down vintage perfumes can be less than mind-blowing because their innovation has become such a part of our vocabulary it no longer feels novel. Same goes for pioneering films or, say, horror movie devices that made people faint in the 30s, and just make us giggle now.

  13. It's so delightful that you bring up that point. I was just looking out at the snow contemplating my fragrance preferences, and wondering if they are fundamentally conservative. Or really where my taste in fragrance is emerging from? Chypres take center stage as I oranize my collection. First, VC&A, K, Ivoire, Chanel 19, Rive Gauche, Miss Dior, Paloma Picasso, Deneuve, and Odalisque by PdN all just seem "right.". Is it a permanent imprint from being a tween girl in the 70's? My mom was a super down to earth hippie who owned no fragrance that I recall. Her mother wore 4711 which also seems absolutely perfect to me. I have four vintages of Arpege which I love equally. The Shalimar, the Opium, the Tocade all just sit. But if there was a fire I would grab the Bond New York Oud and Amouage Ubar. Will I learn to love more innovative scents over time? Or will I always go for the "comfort food?" I do like struggling with a scent over time which shows I have some hope of expanding my art appreciation in this area. It reminds me of the challenge presented by "Here Come the Warm Jets" by Brian Eno. It was 1986, in Ohio. I had no basis for comparison! It felt like my mind would melt as I tried to integrate the experience, the assault on my senses that it presented. Breath of God was a similar experience. I still don't wear it really, but I believe I understand it better after repeated exposure. I'm still working on Seville a L'Aube. Maybe I need a trip to Europe to have a fuller appreciation! I certainly take your point about film. I have never been able to "get" the achievements of so many films because their innovations and relevance had already become part of the canon of literature by the time I saw them. On another note, my husband has added L'Encre Noir to his fragrance rotation. I bought the bottle on your recommendation last year. I find it has a unique and oddly haunting aura. Merci beaucoup!

  14. We all have basic olfactory structures we feel more at home in -- mine is also chypre, but I've learned to "read" it in fragrances that aren't necessarily classified as such. Timbuktu, for instance.
    Another thing is that you can appreciate a fragrance without wanting to live in it, right? Because they "house" us when we wear them.
    Funny you bring up Eno. I stole that album from the college radio station -- most of the DJs were prog rock or heavy metal and couldn't be bothered with such an aural UFO. I was a punk rocker back then, but punks were nothing if not referential, and the glam constellation was part of that. The vinyl is still somewhere in my parents' apartment.
    Oh, and yay for Encre Noire! Vetiver should by rights appeal to a chypre fan.

    1. I also love reading about secret perfume loves, however, where or how can one try a sample of L'ame Perdue by Le Galion? I only saw it available in France on the Le Galion website. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    2. Excellent question. I wish I knew! Best thing is to email the brand, I suppose. Sorry for not being more helpful... There was no press presentation for this so they may be running kind of late on production or distribution?