mardi 28 décembre 2010

My Top 10 Perfumes for 2010

Top tuberoses...
Vamp à NY by Honoré des Prés and Nuit de Tubéreuse by L'Artisan Parfumeur
Tuberose may well be the ultimate in femininity, while vetiver is just one notch short of the big old-fashioned fougère as the top marker of olfactory virility – at least, that’s what came out of the admittedly unscientific survey I took of my readers some time ago.
So what does it say about the gender politics of the perfume industry that at least three brands, Prada, L’Artisan Parfumeur and Dior in their Chanel Exclusives copycat line, came up with both a tuberose and a vetiver in 2010? Though I doubt that was the line of thinking in the marketing department: offering a tuberose and a vetiver is just a way of ticking the boxes of what any perfume collection must offer… And offering a tuberose is something of a necessity, since the received wisdom in the industry is that the Fracas-addicted American market craves tuberose. It is also sure to attract the attention of niche brand customers, who tend to veer towards the more reputedly “difficult” notes of the spectrum (Frédéric Malle, for instance, knew he’d offer a tuberose in his line-up from the outset).
So in 2010 the olfactory fashion pendulum swung hard towards the diva of the floral world:
Infusion de Tubéreuse (Prada) and New Look 1947 (Dior) represented the big-hitters’ entries with tame versions, the former soapy, the latter cosmetic. On the niche side, Histoires de Parfum hedged its bets by matching it up with iris-suede, fruitchouli and tobacco-immortelle in its Tuberose Trilogy.
The two scents that emerged from the 2010 tuberose tsunami were, unsurprisingly, composed by two of the best and most uncompromising noses-for-hire on the market today, Olivia Giacobetti and Bertrand Duchaufour. Neither went for an obviously tuberose note: between Fracas and Carnal Flower, the bases for both the classic tuberose-orange blossom template and the naturalistic rendition were fully covered, Tubéreuse Criminelle adding a baroque twist to the former.

With its joyful tropical play on rum, banana and coconut notes on a burning balsamic base, Honoré des Prés Vamp à NY “reaches you in places sex doesn’t”, according to my Irish friend Clare, who happens to be a sex therapist, and thus should know. Honoré des Prés itself is totally on-trend, being the first brand to offer organic perfumes composed in the manner, and with the aesthetic standards of, French niche perfumery. It scores additional points by working with Giacobetti, whose signature has become much rarer over the last couple of years.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Nuit de Tubéreuse takes an entirely different tack on the vamp, teasing apart the facets of the tuberose absolute rather than going for a figurative representation and conjuring an uncannily seductive mutant that spans the whole cycle of vegetal life, from fruit to root. Unlike Olivia Giacobetti’s, Bertrand Duchaufour’s signature seems poised to be cropping up more and more frequently as several niche brand owners beat a path to his lab… The launch of the new Frapin in early 2011 will be the kick-off.

Top French-Arabian...
Portrait of a Lady by Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums
As the perfume industry scrambles to capture non-Western markets, the type of French-Arabian perfumery pioneered by Montale and Amouage -- the cross-breeding of Arabic olfactory codes with French forms -- is poised for a sharp surge in the niche sector. You think you’ve already smelled all the oud you could? By this time next year, you’ll be up to your nostrils in it.
Though neither  Frédéric Malle nor Dominique Ropion acknowledge having worked with Middle-Eastern tastes in mind, Portrait of a Lady, a paradoxically opulent yet bone-dry wood/rose oriental with oud effects, is one of the most elegant interpretations yet of this new(ish) French-Arabian genre. Because it comes from a house whose editorial policy has been to offer modern rewrites of classic genres, Portrait of a Lady might very well herald the coming of age of the French-Arabian family as an autonomous branch of the Orientals.

Top Faux de Cologne...
Ninfeo Mio by Annick Goutal
With the economic rise of Latin American countries, we’re bound to see a lot of fresh, citrusy scents designed to flatter the Hispanic taste for the agua de Colonia families splash themselves with by the liter, as well as scents I’ve dubbed the faux de Colognes, longer-lasting versions of the classic family with chypre undertones, with a stress on aromatic freshness rather than citrus per se.
However, one of the loveliest offerings in this crisp, fresh genre sprang not from a marketing strategy but from a true story: in fact, the very kind of story that gave the pioneer niche brands their soul. Ninfeo Mio was born of a dreamed Garden of the Hesperides before Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal discovered that their raspy green fig and lavender accord existed in reality, and the shimmering fragrance conjures some of the exhilaration of that discovery.

Top post-Guerlain gourmand...
Kiss Me Tender by Parfums de Nicolaï
2010 saw the house of Guerlain reeling after Jean-Paul Guerlain’s unsavory choice of words revealed a side of the old master’s character and opinions insiders had long known about (they were just wondering why it hadn’t come out sooner). His two Arsène Lupin will quite probably be, as a consequence, the last products he puts his name to. But the Guerlain heritage is thriving a few metro stations away from the 68 Champs Elysées, in Patricia de Nicolaï’s little lab on the avenue Raymond Poincaré lab.
With its almond, vanilla and anise facets, heliotrope may well be the most edible of flowers and Kiss Me Tender, a tribute to Après L’Ondée with a more gourmand bent, fully deserves its epithet: it is an airborne embrace.

Top classic-in-the making...
L’Heure Fougueuse by Cartier
The Guerlain line of transmission is also carried out in the Cartier headquarters of the rue Boissy d’Anglas with the maverick Mathilde Laurent, who was apprenticed to the man who was himself apprenticed to the author of Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue. But it was Edmond Roudnitska she channeled when composing L’Heure Fougueuse for Cartier’s Les Heures de Parfum collection, a modern tribute to L’Eau Sauvage whose “horse mane accord” strikes such a deeply resonant chord that it might well express, as was its author’s intention, an olfactory archetype. If it weren’t for the price point that puts it out of reach of most mortals, this could well become a classic: I haven’t met a person yet who wasn’t immediately struck by its rightness.

Top skankfest...
Absolue pour le Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian
If L’Heure Fougueuse plays on animalic notes in a subtle, almost subliminal fashion, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue pour le Soir uncages the whole menagerie: it is so unashamedly beastly the first whiff made me burst out laughing. Cumin! Honey! Civet! Leather! Not to mention a funky sandalwood base with the half-life of plutonium… If the winsome Francis K. seemed to play it safe with his initial offerings, this time, consider all the hardcore niche-lovers’ buttons pushed.

Top synaesthetic feat...

Wonderwood by Comme des Garçons
Wonderwood also has that sandalwood drydown you practically have to sandblast off your skin. But if I’m including it in the year’s Top Ten, it isn’t so much because of the way it smells, as because of the way it looks. The Quay Brothers’ video for the launch – for which the CdG team gave them carte blanche – is, to my mind, one of the most spectacular renditions of the olfactory ever filmed, at least in a promotional video. Watched alongside the indigent new Dior Homme campaign, it’d make me want to douse myself in Wonderwood even though I rather prefer the smell of the Dior…

Top mainstream launch...

Midnight in Paris by Van Cleef and Arpels
Which makes, via Olivier Polge, for a rather lame transition into Midnight in Paris. The black tea note was just enough of a nod to Bulgari Black to send a shiver of pleasure and relief down perfume lovers’ spines: at last, here was a mainstream fragrance to embrace, not least because it was co-signed (with Domitille Bertier) by the author of another gender-bending mainstream classic-in-the-making, Dior Homme.

Top on-trend concept...
M/MINK by Byredo
I was fully poised to include Serge Lutens Boxeuses in this Top Ten – a variation on Prunol and Cuir de Russie, what’s not to love? – when I told myself that Byredo M/M Ink might well be more significant in the year’s launches. Not just because I find its blend of mineral and animal notes refreshingly daring, though too jarring for me to wear, but also because I believe the concept itself heralds a major niche trend.

There are very few perfumers who can art-direct themselves, and very few brands able to come up with consistent, original ideas in an increasingly crowded scene – especially since very few actually bother with hiring a creative director. So we’ll be seeing a lot more artistic types like Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak, aka M/M, the graphic designers/art directors who supplied Jérôme Epinette with a visual brief for M/MINK, collaborating with perfumers in the conception of fragrances, if only because niche brands, both established and new, will be looking for new sources of inspiration and new narratives to authenticate their products.
So I’ll be spending quite a few entertaining hours speculating on what Jeff Koons, Takeshi Murakami or Mark Quinn could come up with -- and burning candles to Mary Magdalene, the patron saint of perfumers, in the hope that no one approaches Tracey Emin with the idea.

For more Top Tens of 2010, check out:
Bois de Jasmin
Now Smell This
Perfume-smellin’ Things
Perfume Posse

And, of course, I'm looking forward to reading your own favourite picks of the year!

36 commentaires:

  1. Ma chère Denyse, j'aurais bien aimé, le long de cette année un commentaire sur un faux de Cologne/faux de Toilette comme le très vieux EAU DE CAMPAGNE de Sisley (dont la formule malheureusement a changé en 2010) signé il y a plus de trente ans par Jean-Claude Ellena. Grosses bises de l'Espagne. Sarasriva

  2. Heh. Tracey Emin. Heh.

    While I am completely unsurprised by how much I love a bunch of these tuberoses (and there are never too many tuberoses to suit me), my affection for Kiss Me Tender took me by surprise. It's really not at all my thing and yet - it's so unapologetically, meltingly lovely that I can't resist it.

  3. Read your list with utmost interest; my entries in all those categories would probably be different, but that's what made it all the more interesting.

  4. Sara, il est vrai qu'on passe tellement de temps à courir après les nouveautés qu'on ne prend pas le temps de se pencher sur ses classiques! Eau de Campagne est en effet un très beau produit, très original par son introduction de la note feuille de tomate.

  5. Amy, Kiss Me Tender proved to be a huge hit with several of my London students (I was presenting it along with different versions of the almond/heliotrope/violet accords). I think there's just something that speaks deeply in KMT despite its apparent simplicity and lack of pretension...

  6. Marina, I think the selection dictated the categories rather than the opposite! I found it interesting to think of my picks in the context of trends this time around... I'm sure I could have picked different products. Out of the 10, though, there are really three that tick all the boxes: I love them, I wore the hell out of them and I think they're amongst the best of the year.

  7. How did I forget Ninfeo Mio? I'm ashamed of myself ... although part of the reason I forgot is that my sister-in-law ran off with my bottle, she loved it so much. (I was gracious about it, sort of.) And I see NdT is getting quite a few mentions on these lists!

  8. March, Victoria was convinced Ninfeo Mio came out in 2009... maybe it did? I went by the date I did my interview with Isabelle Doyen, but the scent had come out a few weeks before that.
    And, yes, Nuit de Tubéreuse seems to have made it to quite a few lists. I've been wearing more of Bosphore lately though...

  9. I am sorry to say that I'm so busy I've paid Kiss Me Tender little mind. I should try it again this week...

  10. "Touches you in places that sex cannot"...::smiles::...then adds that perhaps this French-Arabian liaison is something that can.

    As for specific perfumes...

    Hooray for Ninfeo Mio, something which seemed to displease many troops, but which I found myself enjoying. And then forgetting about. You've re-hoisted the flag; I shall go seek in the spring.

    I must say, that as tuberose is far from a hands-down winner note for me, this Year of Tube has been very instructional. Not necessarily full of carnal (sexual or other) bliss, but for allowing observation of a concentration flurry of results from multiple perfumers treating a single note.

    Patricia de Nicolai is a smile on my face, no matter what the year.

    I have not been able to try Fougueuse...yet...I have been quite fascinated by your reports, however.

    If pressed, I could write what my favorites of 2010 would be. But, truth be told, I am such a ruminator that it took until the last quarter of this year for me to decide that yes, I needed to have a full bottle of Dans Tes Bras. While the fiscal investment was a factor, it was mostly about wrapping my head around it enough to say yes. I'm *still* not sure what I think, to tell you the truth.

    But Kiss Me Tender and L'Accord/Code 119? Visceral and quick to "yes."

  11. Robin, I guess it isn't the most spectacular of this year's launches, but it's got a really endearing, classic quality to it. I've been spritzing my bathrobe with it all week before going to bed... Looking forward to your impressions.

  12. Thanks for this. I was very pleased to see some of my own favourites appear on your list, not least Ropion's Portrait.

    You've also given me ideas for lots of new perfumes to try in 2011.

  13. Sorry, I'm just going to leave one more comment, because I forgot to tick the 'Subscribe' box...

  14. Scentscelf, I totally get what you mean with Dans Tes Bras: while some people seemed to embrace it straight off, I'm still at the impressed-but-weirded-out phase with it.
    As for the tuberoses, it's something I did with my students last time I was in London: a comparative study. When you put blotters of different compositions with the same core material side-by-side, you really start realizing the variations you can play on. It's pretty instructional, even when it's not your favourite note (must admit it's one of mine... does it show?)

  15. Persolaise, first of all, I hope your journey back from Paris was less trying that getting there... Sheer chaos, wasn't it? Getting to Montreal out of Paris was pretty much of a nightmare too.
    Curious to know which other favourites we had in common?

  16. eleven european mystics29 décembre 2010 à 05:34

    i loved the distinction made between categories, denyse. Nuit de Tubereuse is my favourite of the year, together with Kiss me Tender, although newly acquired Traversee du Bosphore is claiming more and more attention.
    Happy New Year to all.

  17. eleven european mystics29 décembre 2010 à 05:38

    but i'm bewitched by Eau Mixte, another gem out of Patricia de Nicolai's lab, and seem not to be able to part with it there that my "Latin" upbringing shows?

  18. This is my first year as a fumehead, so my top scents are not all new introductions - but I'll play by the rules afterall...they vary by season:

    Summer - Ninfeo Mio

    Fall/Spring - Carillon pour un Ange, Mythique

    Winter - Incense Rose

  19. Wonderful list, and I wish you an equally fragrant and successful 2011! This was a good year for perfume, my two favorites for 2010 are Bosphore and Bas de Soie, but there are a lot of runners-up. And naturals made it to spotlight this year as well, and that makes me happy, too. Now, I just have to get my hands on some of Mathilde Laurent's Cartier horse potion....
    PS: Looking forward to starting 2011 with the "whatever-named" Frapin as well!

  20. Hi Denyse! Great list. Love NdT. I need to try that Boxeuses, and am also curious about the Nicolai, PoaL, and MiP.

    Just tried Absolue pour le soir yesterday - love the Cologne. The Absolue is great, too. I didn't really get the skank factor in the Absolue - though got tons of it in the Cologne! Cologne dries down to something that reminded me of FlowerbyKenzo. Nice.

    As to the Fougueuse - I am a Mathilde Laurent fan. Attrape Coeur is my HG, and I went crazy for XIII. Fougueuse and Défendue are also very nice. Re: Fougueuse - have you tried Atelier Trefle Pur? I sprayed it on my wrist last night, and this morning it reminded me of Fougueuse!? I wonder if they share some notes.

    My favorite new releases this year: NdT, Traversée du Bosphore, and Kilian's Love and Tears.

  21. EEM, the categories were dictated by my picks of the products I found significant in 2010 rather than by an elaborate analytical process... but why not, right? The fact I found those specific products significant meant they probably met with criteria in certain categories I wasn't fully aware of. Or something.
    I'm quite taken with Bosphore as well. I find it a very happy fragrance.

  22. Lang, this may be your first year but you certainly know how to pick'em! I'm not familiar with the Tauers, but I found Mythique to be quite compelling, and Ninfeo Mio is exhilarating!

  23. Marla, I see on all the different blogs that Bas de Soie is getting a lot of love... I can see why, there's something so old-fashioned and chic about it (like silk stockings) that would draw lovers of the classics. It's not in a register I like to wear so it didn't pop into my mind when writing up my selection...
    The Fougueuse, though, pushed all my buttons, and I hope I'll manage to get a full bottle before my decant runs out, or I'll be running to the Galerie Lafayettes regularly to spritz myself!

  24. EEM, didn't respond about L'Eau Mixte: I really love it as well though in North American and North European climates, it's getting a bit less wear. It's based on the same idea as Eau de Pamplemousse Rose (Hermès), but less costly and longer wearing: that grapefruit and rose accord on a mossy base is adorable.

  25. Karin, I haven't tried Atelier Trèfle Pur, I don't believe the brand is distributed in Paris and just to keep the sample avalanche under control, I never order any... which certainly means I'm missing out on quite a lot.
    It's interesting that you point out the relationship between Cologne pour le Soir and Flower by Kenzo. I have neither on hand, but if memory serves they do share quite a bit of that vanilla violet musk powdery vibe...

  26. Great list, D! We certainly share a few favorites, and I completely agree on Portrait of a Lady being a Middle Eastern inspired extravaganza. It also smells very 80s to me, which is not surprising, because DR loves those types of effects. Thank heavens, as I am tired of all the bland, wallflower fragrances!

  27. Victoria, DR certainly does know how to give a fragrance volume and tenacity: he's got great taste but is also an outstanding technician. Though he says it's always a bit of a mystery why one thing works and the other doesn't... I find Portrait almost *too* expansive: it's one I'd actually rather dab.

  28. Hi again,

    In addition to the Ropion, I also absolutely loved Absolue Pour Le Soir.

    And I cannot wait to try the horsy Cartier!

  29. Persolaise, they have it at Harrod's, so now you know what to do next time you're in London!

  30. Really??!? The last time I was there - about three weeks ago - I specifically asked for it and I was categorically informed that it wouldn't be available till around Feb/March.

    Hmm... now I'm annoyed...

  31. Persolaise, I'm pretty sure a London friend had at least access to a tester when she was there in December... but maybe I'm getting my wires crossed.

  32. Great list, as always :) There are several on it that I haven't tried at all - the avalanche is ubiquitous I guess - but of the ones I have, Traversee is the one I'm tempted to actually buy a bottle's much sweeter than I'd usually go for, but like the other new Artisans by Duchaufour, it's a fascinating shape-shifter and a pleasure to wear.

  33. Parfymerad, I'm glad Bosphore is getting so much love. It's really crept up on me as one of the scents I reach for the most lately, with the incenses that are so suited to the snowy spell we've been having...

  34. I'm surprised by this but I can't get on with Portrait of a Lady as much as I thought I would- I do appreicate it but I thought I'd fall madly in love and I haven't. Still that's what perfume is all about. Hope you had a great Christmas and New Year

  35. Rose, of course you must have felt the bottle had your name on it... Well, can't love all the roses, can we? My favourite remains Nahema I think.

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