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.