As 2014 draws to a close, we ask our contributors to look back and tell us their favourite new releases and discoveries of the year.
"Vero Profumo never disappoints"
Another year just passed and, as usual, we witnessed countless brands trying so hard to standout with their promises of luxury, exclusivity, quality, uniqueness and whatnot. Hundreds (if not directly thousands) of new launches, re-issues, re-launches. New brands, new perfumes, new formulae but, in the end, for the most part, the same old stories. In this more and more crowded playground, we’ve all tried to navigate in what has become an impossible to catch-up with scenario. We’ve tried to find our own standouts and our new favorites in a sea for the majority populated by forgettable juices presented in fancy boxes / flacons. Don’t get me wrong, there have been several remarkable new fragrances this year but the number of launches / good quality
ratio is getting lower and lower. Too much of everything. Too much.
With that said, while I personally liked something like 40 (maybe 50) new fragrances, we’ve been asked for editorial matters, to nail it down to a couple. I’ve never been good with regulations and rules so I’m gonna pick up three of my personal favorites for 2014. Bogue Profumo’s Maai is definitely one of them. A grand animalic / floral chypre by one of the most interesting new perfumers currently on the market. Old-school, uncompromising and stunningly beautiful. Vero Profumo never disappoints and the new Rozy Voile D’Extrait gains a full mention amongst the best of the best. Last but not least, my third pick is for Masque Fragranze and their Russian Tea. A tremendous example that in order to make something remarkable, you don’t necessarily need to deliver something weird or over the top. Wearable, easy to like, versatile and completely satisfying.
That’s all folks. Catch you all in the ether…
(You can see all of Alfarom’s best fragrances on his blog, here.)
Alfarom is a regular contributor to Basenotes as a writer, and forum member. He also writes at his blog at Nero Profumo
"Peculiar and lovely"
By December, I can’t remember anything that happened before July, but luckily that was when my favourite scent of the year came out. Papillon’s
first three scents are all excellent, but it’s Angelique
that I’ve worn time and time again. Soft warm orris root, waxy mimosa and a nice cold incense. Peculiar and lovely.
I should also mention Frederic Malle’s Eau de Magnolia, as I got through my bottle super quickly this summer, which is always a good sign.
Callum Langston-Bolt regularly writes for Basenotes and contributes to the Basenotes Podcast. You can find him on Twitter at @CallumBolt
"Maai accomplishes a great deal flawlessly and with integrity"
An anemic year for fragrance, it seems; a ridiculous amount of releases with just a handful managing to catch and hold my attention. Copious hats are off to the cerebral, Lynchian bizzaro-pop of Slumberhouse’s Sådanne
, the fluffy towel repose of Helmut Lang’s EdP
reissue, the disco handbag charm of Hermes’ Cuir d’Ange
, and the gesamtkunstwerk-DIY approach of Bruno Fazzolari’s Au Dela Narcisse des Montages
. But the scent that’s been holding fort at the top of my 2014 list since the day of its release is Bogue Profumo’s devastating Maai
As the scent has garnered so much praise already, I doubt it needs any kind of reintroduction here. But I will say that, as a fragrance that cites so many key moments in the trajectory of modern perfumery (while simultaneously keeping its eye on the future), Maai accomplishes a great deal flawlessly and with integrity. For fans of old-school aldehydes, bawdy animalics, and virile ‘80s masculines, Maai has it all, yet the approach is that of a uniquely modern angle. Given the feckless and cynical state of many of “proper” industry releases these days, we’re fortunate to have home-grown honest and passionate alternates such as this. And so for 2014, Maai is the winner for me.
Deadidol is a writer and academic working in the arts. He’s a contributor, editorially as well as in the forums, and is also one of the site’s moderators.
M7 Oud Absolu
from 2011 is my discovery of the year. I tried to like the original M7
but we never clicked; this version suits me better. The oud accord is still there but the harsh parts are gone, amber, patchouli and mandarin pleasingly round out the fragrance. It’s been called an oud for beginners and I agree with that; it’s a rich and complex scent but not challenging or difficult to wear.
Furrypine is a moderator on the Basenotes forums and a contributor to the Basenotes Directory.
Atelier Cologne’s Cédrat Enivrant
was one of my favourites this year. Its cheerful demeanour accompanied me through the summer months. I’ll also give a nod to the trio from Papillon perfumes, though I believe these are all covered elsewhere in this piece!
Grant is the editor of Basenotes and he tweets at @grantosborne
"It’s perfect for giving your significant other a small sultry shock at your favorite dare place"
Discovering L’Artisan Perfumer’s Amour Nocturne
at Twisted Lily
this year was by far my most revelatory olfactory experience. The scent, quite literally for “night lovers,” begins with is very heavy on the sweet burnt sugar-ness of caramel and a light, woody cedar which then explodes into a smoky haze of gunpowder. Lingering effects include notes of orchid you’ll catch in a whiff as you wake up the next morning. It’s perfect for giving your significant other a small sultry shock at your favorite dare place, or for sipping a cup of hot chocolate (or hot milk, another note of Amour Nocturne) at a secluded cabin in the woods on a cold winter’s night.
Haniya Rae often writes about art and architecture for Architectural Digest, and has been a perfume fanatic since she was a child. Her website is at haniyarae.com and you can follow her on twitter at @haniyarae.
"it belongs on every inch of skin that I can spare"
Andy Tauer’s Sotto La Luna Gardenia
was this year’s love-it-or-hate-it fragrance, and it fell resolutely in my ‘OHMYGOODNESS THIS IS MAGICAL I LURRRRVE IT’ category. I had been more than disappointed with this year’s releases, with most of my perfume budget going towards vintage scents. Legend has it that when the full moon hangs high in the sky, the witches come out to play. And Sotto La Luna Gardenia is indeed a witch’s brew that casts its spell upon all who smell it. Forget about a plain, boring soliflore: the gardenia goes into the cauldron, for sure, but along with it go a narcotic jasmine to amp up the sex, a clump of earth to keep it grounded, some cheese to keep it edgy and an overripe banana, which leaves us with a potion that teeters on the verge of decomposition – a quality that made Diorella
so compelling to me in the first place. But Tauer doesn’t stop there; he throws tonka bean and vanilla into the mixture, whose gourmand natures leave me wondering if Sotto La Luna Gardenia belongs in the trash or in my mouth. The answer, as with any other perfume that is considered a masterpiece, is that it belongs on every inch of skin that I can spare.
Joshua Ang tweets at @SmellyVagabond and writes a perfume blog at The Smelly Vagabond.
"I love it so much that I slapped the box on my laundry basket and Instagrammed it – and Thierry Wasser ‘liked’ my photo!"
For once it was really easy to pick my ‘Best of 2014’ - and it was a love-at-first-sniff moment too: Guerlain’s Terracotta Le Parfum
, created by Thierry Wasser
Now that I can measure the time I’ve been working at Basenotes Towers in years, I wish I could say that I’ve become an expert when it comes to fragrance, but sadly not; I still struggle to identify individual notes in a perfume (aside from the really obvious ones), and although I’d love to be able to converse intelligently about the finer points of a fragrance and its development over time, I’ve pretty much got to the point where I’ve accepted the fact that just it’s not to be.
According to Basenotes then, the notes are: bergamot, coconut and tiaré flower in the opening, orange blossom, jasmine and ylang ylang in the heart, on a base of vanilla and musk. This fragrance pyramid gives me great pleasure as, not only did I manage to pick out three of these notes all by myself, but together they make the most delightful scent which, whilst the sales pitch is all about Summer (‘a sun-soaked invitation to explore faraway lands’), is also wonderfully warming and comforting in cooler weather. I’m so glad that I bought it without hesitation, as it seems that bottles are like gold dust.
In fact, I love it so much that I slapped the box on my laundry basket and Instagrammed it – and Thierry Wasser ‘liked’ my photo! Job done.
As well as working behind the scenes at Basenotes Towers, Judith Brockless also writes and has been shortlisted for a Jasmine Award. She tweets at @juju_Basenotes
"It’s just stunning, straight off the bat"
I nominate Anubis
from Papillon. It’s just stunning, straight off the bat. The beguiling, medicinal, smoky sultriness of it makes it my favourite perfume this year – hands down. It smells like familiar territory; the leathery, heady incense base that is apparent upon first spritz. But an injection of something sweet and floral totally transform it into something new. I find it one of those rare shape-shifting kind of perfumes, like Breath of God from Gorilla Perfume
or Réglisse Noire
from 1000 Flowers, Anubis melts and meanders, swirling all it’s nuances around me.
Liam Moore is the editor of the Award Winning ODOU Magazine, and has featured on the Basenotes Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @Odoumag.
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"Please tell me it’s not rude to keep sniffing someone’s neck"
The best new release I smelled in 2014 was on a friend who was wearing Nevermore
by Frapin. Rose, saffron and a lot of sandalwood in the drydown. Please tell me it’s not rude to keep sniffing someone’s neck!
And talking of sandalwood, this year I was introduced to Sonoma Scent Studio by a friend. I loved them all but the one I adore is Champagne de Bois. It’s sparkly on the top with a hint of aldehydes, then warm and sensuous in the base with labdanum and sandalwood. I just wish it were easier to buy from American perfume houses in the UK - we need a Lucky Scent here!
Other discoveries for me this year were Corallium from Carthusia, which I bought on a trip to Capri - it’s a local perfume house. Hard to describe - slightly herbal with a hint of ginger? It reminded me of all the herbs you smell when you go walking on this beautiful island.
For a refreshing office scent, and also a bit herbal from the clary sage is Caligna from L’Artisan Parfumeur. I don’t usually care much for anything with a green note or even a fig note, but this one stood out for the quality and subtlety of the blend. My go to scent for work this year.
Last, but not least Fille en Aiguilles by Serge Lutens - I came a bit late to this party - it’s had rave reviews since it came out in 2009. Warm pine needles, frankincense and that yummy SL, sweet base, very wearable and perfect for this winter weather."
Lila Das Gupta is a London based journalist with an interest in perfumes, and soap-making. Lila organises the Perfume Lovers London meet-up. You can find her on Twitter at @liladasgupta.
"unique and subtle on many levels"
I’ve had my fair share of interesting submissions in 2014 but the one that has intrigued me enough to revisit numerous times on my skin is Fragrance Republic 01/ no 08
by Jean-Christophe Herault.
He manages to balance and elevate what appears to be on the surface, some pretty predictable notes such as orange Flower Ab, jasmine Ab, patchouli, osmanthus, bergamot, violet leaves and apricot but this brew is quite unique and subtle on many levels.
The fragrance is tamed into a warm, wistful, almost haunting “chypre and leather” drydown which harkened me back to my other favourite, S.T. Dupont pour Femme but to a sunnier elevation.
Marian Bendeth is a Global Fragrance Expert based out of Toronto, Canada. You can find out more about Marian on her website.
"For me, a Master’s work"
by Alessandro Gualtieri (Orto Parisi) is the one that surprised me the most this year, for an exuberant indolic note which isn’t easy to find elsewhere. Indole, with its dirty, earthy feeling of human warmth is widely used in perfumery but its most pungent, “rotten” facets are generally hidden under blankets of white flowers. Here, indole plays the starring role suggesting primitive sensuality, and plays an unusual contrappunto with a crispy, sunny, mouthwatering bergamot note. I also detect the presence of some alcoholic: the inspiration for this fragrance are summer country festivals, so fruits, alcohol and sweat (dancing requires effort, you know) are absolutely consistent. The scent is delightfully unusual and very addictive, perfectly wearable both by gents and ladies. I’ve been wearing it with pure fun, and I have also received several compliments!
But this year’s last weeks brought me a new discovery, which gave me pure joy: it’s Russian Tea by Julien Rasquinet for Masque, an aromatic scent (mint, incense, immortelle), with an intense, shady character. While the main theme is now entirely new, it’s been put together in a very subtle, refined, whispering way I found terribly fascinating. For me, a Master’s work
Marika Vecchiattini is based in Italy and writes the popular Italian (bi-lingual) blog Bergamotto e Benzoino
"a gorgeous Eau de Cologne style magnolia"
2014 has been a pretty interesting year across all sectors of the market for me: Gaga launched a very competent celebuscent in Eau de Gaga
, Bulgari keep bringing us hope for mainstream perfumery with Man in Black
, and the limited distribution sector delivered a fragrance that I named which I’m pretty thrilled about (Lothair
by Penhaligon’s, thanks for asking).
But for my pick of the year, I’m torn between Frederic Malle’s Eau de Magnolia - a gorgeous Eau de Cologne style magnolia, playing with the citrus facets of the luminous flower - and Serge Lutens’ L’orpheline - a beautifully sparse and mineral incense, with a somewhat ashen and grey sensation. And since Grant said I was allowed two, I’m gonna have two.
Nick Gilbert is a passionate fume nerd with over 12 years experience working in the world of fragrance. As well as writing for Basenotes, he writes on his blog at nickrgilbert.com and tweets at @nickrgilbert
"Bellinis on ice by candlelight"
Sneak into the pyramids at dead of night and start unwrapping those mummies; my launch of the year is Anubis
by Papillon Perfumes. I can’t think of any other perfume which has been whipped out so often at my events this year, which attests to Anubis’ intrigue and particularity. It’s a real conversation-starter. This one switched me onto the strange pleasures of Pink Lotus, and while it’s bloody weird (and the kind of thing you imagine the Egyptians spreading onto heal wounds), somehow it’s a joy to wear.
A greedily appreciative shout-out must also go to 4160 Tuesdays’ ‘walking in a winter wonderland’, Doe in the Snow, which I wore to my wedding in January (Mr Toilette was in Bois Blonds by Atelier Cologne: Bellinis on ice by candlelight.
Odette Toilette organises perfume events, as well as co-hosting the Life in Scents podcast. You can also hear Odette on the Basenotes Podcast. Twitter: @OdetteToilette
"Smell it… and hear the drum beat heralding the birth of the planet"
It’s been a year of diversity and division. I have no idea what’s going to appear on critics’ Best Of lists this year and I’ll be surprised - very pleasantly, mind you - if there are any clear ‘winners’. Tastes seem to have splintered in much the same way that the world of niche has started to fall apart at the seams.
Bleak sentiments aside, there were quite a few releases which caught my attention this year, and of those, I’ll choose to single out Jean Patou’s Chaldée today. This originally appeared in 1927 as a tanning oil - whose scent was composed by none other than Henri Almeras - after which it was bottled as a fine fragrance. Re-worked by Thomas Fontaine - and re-released by the house of Patou - it is now a gloriously powdery, musky resinous clarion call from a land beyond the reaches of ancient history. Smell it… and hear the drum beat heralding the birth of the planet.
(You can see more of Persolaise’s best fragrances of 2014 on his website)
Persolaise is a Jasmine Award winning writer, and is the author of Le Snob: Perfume. He writes at Persolaise.com. Twitter: @persolaise.
"an outrageous damascone overdose with an ambery dry down"
I am torn Sådanne by Slumberhouse
by Narciso Rodriguez, so I’ll just include both. The former is an outrageous damascone overdose with an ambery drydown that sneaks up on you like a hairy-chested gigolo climbing out of a strawberry gateau. It’s not even strictly speaking a perfume - more of a sensory joyride - and just like a joyride, as fun as it is once in a while, it’s not something you could handle every day. Which brings me to my second choice; almost a polar opposite in character and wearability. Narciso is a sensual, floral musk which you could throw on every day like an expensive cashmere sweater and be confident that you smell great. It won’t invade other people’s personal space, yet it doesn’t smell thin or boring; a very commercial scent with character. Not as easy as it sounds.
Pia Long is a perfumer and freelance writer. Her blog is at www.volatilefiction.co.uk. Twitter: @Nukapai
"a beautiful fragrance that represents a positive shift in the industry"
It’s been a bit tricky to narrow down my favourite perfume of the year. As with every other year, the industry has been nothing short of prolific with its output, and amongst the onslaught of oud and the fascination with flankering, there has actually been some pretty decent stuff for the nose this year. So yes, it’s been quite difficult to narrow it down to just one (thanks for that, Grant), but in the end my choice is very simple - I have no choice but to opt for Tobacco Rose
by Papillon Artisan Perfumes, as my fragrance of the year.
But ‘why?’, I hear you ask. Well, the answer is two-fold. Firstly, Tobacco Rose represents a rise in independent perfumers who are approaching the art of fragrance with passion and talent, resulting in fragrances that are presented as they are, without gimmicks, allowing the scents to speak for themselves. Tobacco Rose is a perfect example of this and perfumer Liz Moores has managed to create a rose that turns an over-exposed genre on its head. Secondly, Tobacco Rose was the fragrance my husband wore on our wedding day this year, so really I’m completely biased towards it due to the special memories it holds.
In short, Tobacco Rose is a beautiful fragrance that represents a positive shift in the industry, and whats more, it smells pretty darn good on my husband. What more could a man ask for?
(You can see more of Thomas’ Best (and worst) of 2014 here.)
Thomas also writes at Candy Perfume Boy. Twitter: @Candyperfumeb0y
Well, that was 2014! Did our contributors pick your best of the year, or was there something they missed? We’ll soon be opening the polls for the Basenotes Reader Awards, but until then, let us know in the comments.
Happy New Year!
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