vendredi 28 décembre 2012

My Top Ten fragrances of 2012...You must believe in spring


Needless to say, Séville à l’Aube has been the fragrance of 2012 for me. And it seems as though most of the launches I've loved in this past year share some of its springtime exhilaration. Maybe perfumers, consumers and marketing pundits alike have been yearning for a sense of renewal; tender blossoms poking their pistils through the sticky vats of fruitchouli. This seems to be translating into a new kind of freshness, neither citrusy nor aquatic, but rather expressed through moist dewy floral notes (Byredo Inflorescence, Narciso Rodriguez for Her L’Eau and See by Chloé will be carrying this trend over into 2013).

Jour d’Hermès, now available in Hermès shops and to be launched worldwide in February, is the most achieved expression of this floral idea. Designed to convey the idea of flower-as-such without representing any blossom in particular, Jean-Claude Ellena’s feminine answer to Terre d’Hermès is both serene and exhilarating, and my favorite mainstream launch.

Baiser Volé eau de toilette by Mathilde Laurent for Cartier is, with the much harder to source extrait version, much truer to the perfumer’s original “rubbing yourself all over with a lily” idea, since the cosmetic notes of the eau de parfum are toned down. Aldehydes give it that extra sparkle and boost the green galbanum overture.

L’Eau de Chloé by Michel Almairac (Robertet) is by far the best of the brand’s signature series. The perfume conceived it as a green chypre structure, and in a genius brainwave, replaced the water usually added to the blend along with alcohol with rose water for a strikingly natural effect that acts from top to base notes.

Vero Profumo Mito by the irreplaceable Vero Kern is the ultra-niche, take-no-prisoners interpretation of the springtime floral, with citronella chomping down on magnolia flower-flesh. Huge volume, great compliment-catcher, and the best go-to feel-good scent this year.

Arquiste Boutonnière by Rodrigo Flores Roux (Givaudan) made it in the nick of time to be included in this yearly round-up (the first sample got hijacked in the mail) but instantly shot up to the top rung. Arquiste is to my mind one of the best recent niche brands, with a consistency that makes it feel necessary. I’ll be getting back to the fragrance for a full review. For the time being, I’ll just say it combines a photorealistic freshly plucked gardenia with a quote from fresh masculine colognes, but can be totally rocked by ladies.

Ann Gérard Perle de Mousse, another scent I’ll need to be getting back to ASAP, strikes me as the most interesting interpretation of the green chypre genre this year. Bertrand Duchaufour conceived it as part of a trio for the Parisian jeweler Ann Gérard, overdosed it with lentiscus.  Tinged with iodic and violet notes, this green material fills the role of the soon-to-be-banned oak moss.

Olfactive Studio Lumière Blanche by Sidonie Lancesseur (Robertet) tugs the green theme that runs through my favorite 2012 launches towards a completely different area of the scent-map. A play on incandescence, it contrasts the coolness of cardamom and anise with the hotness of cinnamon, over the milkiness of an almond-iris-sandalwood accord.

Blanc de Courrèges by Julie Massé (Mane) is, as it name indicates, another take on white, the emblem of the iconic fashion house. Going by the number of hits I’ve been getting for this review, this graceful iris-patchouli with almond overtones is indeed getting a lot of well-deserved love. Kudos to the new Courrèges owners for restoring the mythical rose chypre Empreinte, along with Eau de Courrèges. The rebirth of Courrèges has been one of the nicest fashion/perfume news of the year.

Prada Infusion d’Iris Absolue tilts the blindingly white (to my synaesthetic brain) original version towards a slightly more sensuous register… As though Daniela Andrier had sifted Infusion d’Iris through Candy, keeping the latter’s delicate benzoin heart. The Candy exfoliating scrub, which is a lot stronger on the iris and musk than on the caramel, and leaves the skin very fragrant, works pretty well with this.

Parfum d’Empire Musc Tonkin couldn’t be a stronger contrast with the elegant lovelies of this list. Marc-Antoine Corticchiato’s limited-edition, extrait concentration tribute to the most mythical of animal notes stops just short of being feral enough to live in a cage. Definitely in the “a-little-dab’ll-do-ya” territory.

And, since 2012 has been, overall, a prettty good year for niche, let's make this a Top 15 with: 

 Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule, Aedes de Venustas, Frapin Speakeasy which I’ve yet to review, Parfumerie Générale Corps et Ames Eau de Parfum and État Libre d’Orange Fils de Dieu

And I can't resist giving a nod to Guerlain's campaign for La Petite Robe Noire: the scent isn't necessarily my sort of thing, but the ads just put a silly happy grin on my face. Here's the Christmas edition: 

For more 2012 round-ups, please click to:

And a very happy, healthy, gloriously fragrant 2013 to you!

25 commentaires:

  1. Yep, 2012 was a good yield :)
    I've bought "Lumière blanche" unsniffed. Bargain price on ebay. I've got it there, unwrap, in my desk. As long as it's not open, have I made an impulsive buy? Sweet lie :D
    I've got my hand on no18 for christmas for myself the same way. Sweating reanimates this preppy one into a way sexier and alluring person. Ambrette cath a tonka bean warth, rose takes a liquorice wand sensuality, with an masterful clean/dirty balance.
    "eau de lentisque" : oh, I love this one. I don't know it "raw", but I know what I love in old Chamade and "le temps d'une fête" of Nicolaï.
    I still have to smell the extrait of "baiser volé". Don't warn me, I've already made a blind buy.
    I've got to spare some money, in case l'artisan or PD Nicolaï makes discounts for january.
    My mother has been given "Séville à l'aube", I now catch better the idea in it. I confess, my previous try during a Paris pilgrimage made me coil at the idea, "why the hell this orange flower had been alloyed with green with a cucumber-like green and crunchiness". Now that I enjoy it, I get the sense of achievement in the composition. I'll have more to report when my mom will have turned into a "living blotter" :D
    I have to try "musk tonkin". I'm curious to know what exactly smells "hyraceum", this "pain free" fossilized african mammal pee.
    I hope it's not the wet cardboard facette I get in Byredo's "Bal d'affrique".

  2. Julien, your mom smells wonderful! Actually, I gave a bottle of Séville à l'Aube to mine as well...
    As for the green aspect, go back to your OB absolute and you'll see there's that facet in it, as there is in petitgrain. Séville à l'Aube was marketed as an orange blossom by L'Artisan but that was never the intent: it's the orange *tree*, fruit, flower, leaves and twigs, plus incense, bees wax, the crowds' colognes, etc.

  3. I will have to try Lumiere Blanche again since it made so many lists this year. Great picks D!

  4. I should have added Blanc de Courrèges to mine, because I think that it's a terrific fragrance. Great list, D!

  5. Robin, I'm wearing Autoportrait today and really enjoying it -- I find the whole Olfactive Studio line so easily embraceable, even beyond the nifty concept.

  6. Victoria, as I said in my original review, I think Blanc works where La vie est belle doesn't because there's something joyful and -- to use a trite expression -- effortlessly elegant about it.It really deserves to be saluted.


    Happy New Year!

  8. Thanks, whoever you are, and happy new year to you too! Sadly I can't access this video from Canada... but of course Bill Evans' interpretation of "You must believe in spring" never fails to move me.

  9. Great trend you've sniffed out! Actually, one of the things l love about Séville à l’Aube is the balance of freshness and richness.

    Haven't yet tried most of these - year end lists are a great way to prioritize sampling the avalanche of new releases, so I'm happily at least a year behind. Best wishes to all for 2013! ~~nozknoz

  10. Séville has been a major event in many perfume lovers'lives, mine included! It's the only fragrance released this year that I bought, so I don't have much to add! ;)
    I'm also the proud owner of Lumière Blanche and Mito samples, but I haven't tested them properly on skin, yet.
    I wish you a wonderful 2013, dear D.

  11. Nozknoz, maybe it's that whole downturn thing that's making us (and perfumers) yearn for something rich but fresh and sensuous, the simple pleasure of flowers... anyway, I'll be curious to see how it plays out over 2013!

  12. Iodine, thank you for your kind words. I'm very proud the scent I put so much work and heart into is being appreciated. A very happy new year to you too!

  13. Denyse, I wish you all the best for the new year. May it bring you joy and fulfillment... and fragrant pleasures of course! Looking forward to another year of your articles.

    PS: I love the picture fro this article! Is this in Paris? I bet it puts a smile on every passerby's face.

  14. Kostas, all the best to you too! The picture was taken in New York, but not by me: I found it as I was Googling the artist Robert Ryman: this installation is by his son Will. You can click on the link at the bottom of the post for his website.

  15. D, it seems strange to me that nobody seems to have mentioned Puredistance's Opardu. Smelling it, I would have thought it would be a solid contender. You didn't think so?

  16. Robin, I don't know about my fellow bloggers, but though I do admire Puredistance they're just not quite at the forefront of my mind, especially since they don't have a press office in Paris. So I haven't even tested Opardu yet, an omission I'll be sure to correct.

  17. Oh, D, I do hope so. I work in an incredible niche perfume shop here in Vancouver where I'm exposed to lots of good stuff. (No plug, just context.) I was blown away by the beauty of Opardu. It's parfum concentration and the iris in it is unbelievable, as is its compositional brilliance. It has that kind of inevitability of the greats. I think you might dig it!

  18. Robin, that is a warm recommendation indeed. I'll get to it as soon as I return to Paris.

  19. Safe journey, D.

    ( ". . .as soon as I return to Paris." How wonderful to be able to write that. Glad to know you are so blessed.)

  20. Thanks Robin. Haven't been to Vancouver since I was 16! I do try to remind myself regularly about the privilege of living in Paris. It does come at a price though -- the same that's paid by all expats, plus really wicked rents that eat up most of my earnings!

  21. Hello,

    I have also made my annual list of best fragrances 2012. Some from your list didn't have the opportunity to try, but I adore Seville a L'Aube. It's really beautiful inspiration and offcourse it's your scent of the year. Very, very nice.
    I like Chloe L'Eau but didn't enlist it because I find some other ones more beautiful, like Miss Dior Le Parfum. Did you try it?


  22. Juraj, thanks for including Séville. I'm very proud it's made so many best of 2012 lists! As for Miss Dior parfum, I'm still so annoyed at the way LVMH has been behaving with their suppliers (and therefore the authors of many of their bestsellers) that I tend to neglect Dior. But if you recommend it, I'll be sure to smell it when I pass by a counter.

  23. It's all about "Jour" for me too.

  24. Hey, Nick! Isn't it great when mainstream does it right, and a well-respected brand doesn't let down?