As we say goodbye to 2013, we asked some of our contributors to look back and tell us what their favourite fragrance discoveries were of this year - they didn't have to be something new -- just something new to them... We'll be asking our readers what their favourite scents were too soon, in our Reader Awards.
In the meantime, take it away everyone ,....
From my point of view, 2013 has been a pretty interesting year for fragrance. Some expectations fulfilled as well as some very interesting new faces. Italy has done his part with what, in my opinion, is probably the best fragrance of the year: Montecristo by Masque. A sweaty/animalic concoction of spices, booze, woods and thick animalic musks that strikes for its tremendous character and immense beauty. Incredibly evocative, comfortable and daring at the same time. From the same house, Terralba definitely deserves a mention as well. Completely a different beast from Montecristo but nonetheless outstanding in its peculiar rendition of sand dunes and italian coasts. Extremely aromatic herbs and woods paired to a transparent and salty vibe throughout. Endless wearability and a great all-rounder.
Nu_Be, which is known for their sublime quirkiness applied to very practical fragrances, delivered two of their most interesting fragrances to date: Mercury and Sulphur. The former is a crazy and avant-garde concoction of sparkling aldehydes juxtaposed to a warm sandalwood base while the latter strikes for its subtle animalic character paired to green and assertive notes such as vetiver and costus.
Beside all the controversy, O'Driù is still delivering pretty solid stuff and Peety gains a special spot in my list of recommendations for this year. A terrific spicy-woody-musky concoction that's vastly head and shoulders above the average quality available in today's niche offerings. French line Liquides Imaginaires introduces to a wider audience its former trio of fragrances Les Eaux-Delà enriched by a new series called Les Eaux Sanguigne. These fragrances, previously available only in very selected French stores, have been now re-launched also in user-friendly 100ml flacons of immense beauty. My personal standout is Sancti, a citrusy and sparkling composition built around a crispy frankincense base. Probably the most literal iteration of church-y incense to date.
On more *popular* territories, Tom Ford's Sahara Noir setted up a new standard for incense-centered fragrances by introducing what's probably the most straight-forward incense since Norma Kamali's infamous Incense. Neela Vermeire has setted the bar so high with her former trio of fragrances and I've been more than glad to discover my expectations for her Ashoka have been completely fulfilled. A trustworthy follower to her previous Trayee, Mohur and Bombay Bling with an incredible evolution from the top notes till the drown. Pure virtuosism.
Comme Des Garcons keeps on doing its own thing without disappointing. Both Black and Sugi have been two big winners in my book. The former is a viscous, and indeed dark, composition of incense, tar and unsweetened licorice which strikes for both its perfect balance and incredible versatility. The latter is probably my favorite in the Monocle series. A minimlisitc (as opposed to simplistic) concoction entirely based on bizarre synergies between few and pretty common ingredients that give birth to something absolutely novel. Kudos.
I will close this list with two fragrances by two houses that haven't impressed me in a while. Amouage seems to have found his way back to the old glory by introducing Fate Woman. Humongous, bombastic and absolutely perfect. Gucci, on the other hand, delivered *Forever Now* to celebrate the Gucci Museo in Florence. A collaboration with master perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi. Probably not a wower at first but definitely a grower after some wearings. Leathery, woody and spicy with a smooth vetiver base and soft floral patterns. It took me a while to completely get it but it has slowly become a favorite for this year.
Honorable mention to Vero Profumo for enriching its catalog with the Les Voiles D'Extrait versions of all Vero's previous fragrances. Fantastic options for anyone who loved her Extraits but prefer spraying over dabbing. Etat Libre D'Orange delivers La Fin Du Monde which strikes as an incredibly solid and easy to wear take on iris with *that* quirky twist that has become the house's hallmark. Perfectly unisex, perfectly sized, smooth and endlessly wearable.
Alfarom is a regular contributor to Basenotes, both editorially and in the forums. He also blogs at Nero Profumo, where you can read all of his best of 2013 fragrances.
Having relocated to the U.S. this year, I was terrified by the thought of being solely surrounded by clinically clean, aquatically arid or stickily sweet scents. Thankfully there are niche labels like Josh Lobb's Portland-based brand Slumberhouse
to keep things fragrantly interesting stateside. What really drew me to Slumberhouse was how multi-faceted and alluring each individual scent is - plus I have a soft spot for anyone who spends months residing in a pear orchard in a quest for the most authentic smelling Pear + Olive
Carla Seipp writes for Basenotes from NYC and is a Freelance fashion, art and fragrance journalist. Contributor for Twin, A Shaded View on Fashion, Dazed Digital and more. Twitter: @carlaseipp
Although I’ve run across a just handful of fragrances that have truly moved me this year, my top choice has to be Montecristo by Masque Fragranze
This is one of the most redolent and haunting scents I’ve smelled in that it evokes a precise place and brings it to life through a creative interplay of animalics, boozy notes, and wood. It opens with an inspired merger of hyraceum and ambrette that lends the fragrance the kind of sweaty quality you find in El Attarine
or Fate Man
, but what follows is a delicious rum note that gives the impression of alcohol filtered through the pores of someone’s skin. This all floats above the most vivid chord of musty furniture that I’ve run across; it’s the smell of old oak desks, floorboards, and cabinetry. Like all good art, Montecristo is as challenging as it is comforting, but it’s the powerful evocation of the scent that makes it this year’s winner for me. Perfume this exceptional is such rarity these days.
Honorable mentions: Matriarch’s Blackbird
; the Slumberhouse reformulations of Ore
(as well as the new Zahd
); and Bogue Profumo’s brilliantly old shool Cologne Reloaded
Deadidol is a moderator on the Basenotes Forums
My pick would be Eau d'Italie's Acqua Decima
- I'm a sucker for the traditional eau-de-cologne type smell for the summer, and this fitted the bill quite nicely.
My other favourite discovery of the year is the relaunch of Indult's Tihota,
which is quite possibly now my favourite vanilla fragrance of all!
Grant Osborne is the founder and editor of Basenotes.
I discovered Ramon Monegal through the chatter on Basenotes and got a few samples of the most talked about scents from the line.
Entre Naranjos (right) became my most worn scent in 2013; an orange fiend met the perfect orange fragrance. You smell the tree, the blossom, the zest and the fruit, and it has great longevity for a citrus fragrance. It was worth the steep price of a full bottle. And the bottle is pretty great too. Made of heavy glass, styled like an old-fashioned inkwell, with a flip-top cap, it's elegant and of high quality.
Entre Naranjos works for summer, it works for winter, I like it for day and for night, even for when I sleep. It's well on its way to become my signature fragrance.
Furrypine is a moderator on the Basenotes forums and contributor to the Basenotes Fragrance Directory.
Hello Basenoters. All the best for 2014 and beyond. Let's take a last look back at 2013. I thought I would present this list as an Award List:
The Atmospheric Award: Fate Man (Amouage). When this arrived in the middle of the year I was convinced it would be my choice for the Best in Show. I wear this most days but I had to change my pre-made-up mind on the award category as you will see below.
The Best in Show Award - Puredistance BLACK:. Black Beauty.
You can see the rest of Jordan's list on his website.
Jordan River covered the recent Australian harvest of Santalum album Sandalwood for Basenotes. He is the host of The Fragrant Man and also writes for Australian Perfume Junkies and Olfactoria's Travels.
In the spirit of following a long tradition (started last year) and being true to myself (I have a contrary nature) rather than choosing something from this year, I am choosing a fragrance from 2012 for my ‘Best of 2013’ - Oud by Maison Francis Kurkdjian
Garnering rave reviews in the year of its release, when I finally got my hands on a sample I was surprised to discover just how much I loathed it. It more than just left me cold; to this day, it is the only fragrance I have hated so much that it actually made me cry.
It’s that weird medicinal opening blast, which instantly had me travelling back in time with a Proustian Rush. It smelt exactly like the antiseptic cream my mother used to apply to my cuts and bruises when I was a small child, triggering memories of pain, misery and helplessness.
So I awarded it one star, because zero isn’t available, and passed it on to her in the hope that she, at least, might appreciate it.
Several months later I decided to give it one more chance. I asked my mother’s opinion of it. She sprayed on a little, sniffed happily at her wrist, and announced that it smelt of raspberries.
I sniffed... Yep. Raspberries.
Cured. Five stars.
As well as working tirelessly behind the scenes at Basenotes, Judith Brockless is a Jasmine Award shortlisted writer. Twitter: @juju_basenotes
It's impossible to ask anyone with a large perfume collection to be monogamous for long.... My hits of 2013 have been 'Thirty Three' from Ex Idolo
. It's aged oud with rose (from China), according to the company, and I love it. I get so many compliments whenver I wear it and I find it very uplifting.
My other 'love at first sniff' has been Patchouli Imperial
from Christian Dior. It's slightly dirty and animalic at the top, but in a rather restrained way, and soon settles into a mellow patchouli with some vanilla at the base. This has a plushness and warmth about it that make you feel both cosy and classy.
Lila Das Gupta is a London based journalist with an interest in all things olfactory. Lila also organises the Perfume Lover's London meet-up group. Twitter: @Olfactoryevents
Since we were asked to write about our discovery of the year here are some observations - in all likelihood these have been heavily influenced by spending more time than usual reading Basenotes threads during 2013!
A rash of sample buying and swapping has produced some lovely rewards such as Bogue's Cologne Reloaded
, Tauer's Rose de Kandahar
, Pell Wall's Gin & Lime
and the Slumberhouse
However, this year's favourite is currently Aedes' Iris Nazarena
(Ralf Schweiger) - obviously iris but a very unusual one.
It's inspiration, the Iris bismarckiana, is a rarity growing to the west of Nazareth and pictures show this as one of the least 'colourful' but possibly most striking of iris species.
As a grower of Iris Florentina, amongst others, finding an unusual iris scent has been a slightly haphazard quest for some years.
Initially, it's a bit surprising, the chilly, smoky iris soon develops into a haunting mirror view of the flower with the smallest trace of rose wafting over a little juniper & star anise, incense and leather, slightly spicy woods - a wonderful, persistent smoky rainbow of a scent and one which is so difficult to wear for only one day at a time.
This very contemporary iris broke my rule in being a 'blind' buy - and what a rewarding one!
lpp is a moderator on the Basenotes forums.
I have a few favourites for 2013 but here in Canada, we only just received the Cartier Déclaration d'Un Soir
and I found myself revisiting and sniffing this over and over again. In a word? erotic!
Many have critiqued this scent ad infinitum and I personally never read reviews that defragment single notes of a fragrance because it is the heart and voyage of the scent that interests me most.
Unlike it's father, Déclaration which was reminiscent of old money and Ascot fineries; The d'Un Soir is suave, as a French movie star of yesteryear - downright debonair! I literally smell the echo of a dark cavern of earthen spices. There is a simmering sensuality which winds it's way like a rose-forked tongued snake but not one with a viper bite..the slithering kind which winds itself in and out of darker notes. . Devastatingly good! Five out of Five stars!
Marian Bendeth is a Global Fragrance Expert based out of Toronto, Canada. Marian has won five fragrance industry editorial awards for her writing. You can find out more on her website marianbendeth.com
My favorite fragrance this year is "Eau de Merzhim" by Anatole Lebreton
, fellow blogger of the French blog "La civette au bois dormant
". Anatole has been studying the French classics for years now, and L'Eau de Merzhim clearly bears reminiscence of some among the best. It's an unusually green Chypre with great impact and a natural, outdoors-y feel. Galbanum, Angelica, heliotrope, anisic aldehyde, tree moss and a huge quantity of orris root of amazing quality convey the idea of luscious countryside in spring. That is, where Merlin (Merzhim) used to dwell. The scent is long living on skin, with a good projection. It is available online at Anatole's blog, 48 euros for 60ml.
Marika Vecchiattini is based in Italy and writes the popular Italian (bi-lingual) blog Bergamotto e Benzoino.
Eau de Toast
. It was a PR stunt but it's probably the only perfume you'll ever smell that will make you think you're having a stroke.
Nick Gilbert is a passionate fume nerd with over 12 years experience working in the world of fragrance. He is frequently quoted in press, as well as founder of the @fragrantreviews twitter fragrance reviews project. Twitter: @nickrgilbert
There are several perfumes I’ve enjoyed smelling and wearing this year. It goes without saying that there have also been quite a few duds, but high-quality creative perfumery is by no means dead. In terms of absolute numbers, there are probably as many wonderful perfumes released per year now as there were in the 70s, but they’re dwarfed proportionally by the volume of forgettable nothingness that is inflicted upon us month after month.
From those releases worthy of a ‘thumbs up’, I’d pick out Frank Voelk’s Ylang 49 for Le Labo
. A woody, floral, retro chypre with a thoroughly modern edge, it purrs more seductively than just about anything I’ve smelt in the last twelve months. I was also impressed with the weird, parchment-like iris-vanilla of Jerome Epinette’s 1996 (Byredo)
. Iris plays a prominent role in another one of my 2013 favourites: Neela Vermeire Creations’ Ashoka
(composed by Bertrand Duchaufour), a commendably restrained, noble presentation of leather and sandalwood. The latter ingredient brings me to my final choice: the multi-monikered Dries Van Noten by Bruno Jovanovic for Frederic Malle
. Mysore sandalwood and speculoos may not seem like an obvious combo, but the creative directorship of Malle convinces the wearer that the two materials have been cavorting hand-in-hand forever. In DVN, they link up across an expanse of fuzzy woods and a scattering of warm spices to produce an effect that is as classical as it is contemporary.
Persolaise is a twice Jasmine Award winning writer and amateur perfumer with a lifelong interest in the world of fine fragrance. His perfume guide, Le Snob: Perfume, is published in English by Hardie Grant and in German by Süddeutsche Zeitung. You can find out more about his work at his website
My top favourite for 2013 has to be Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle
. Sniffing it was pure joy. It gave me goosebumps. Complex, yet transparent, wearable, yet interesting - a shining example of perfumery at its best. It's a delicate floral gourmand on my skin; like layers of patterned rice paper melting. I don't normally go for saffron in scents but the way it's treated here appeals to me.
My second top pick is Iris Prima by Penhaligon’s
. I have a tendency to turn everything sweet (which is why Angel on my skin is like the death screams of a thousand pink barbies melting) so I do something to suede-type scents (Daim Blond by Serge Lutens is one of my all-time favourites) and most chypres wear very well. I got a sample of this and wore it down immediately. Can't wait to own a full bottle.
I also have to mention how impressed I was with Bottega Veneta pour Homme
; it's the sort of masculine that would appeal to my husband. A sexy, understated, stylish scent - not for show-offs. It's a scent for a modern gentleman.
Pia Long is a perfumer, freelance writer and an experienced cosmetics industry professional. Originally from Finland, she qualified from London College of Fashion in 1996 and has spent the last 20 years in the UK. Twitter: @Nukapai
For me (rum) it will have to be the recently discovered Amouage Homage Attar (25 yr special edition).
Recently got hold of a sample from fellow moderator Lnn (lpp) and immediately ordered a bottle. It's a scent that takes me to the Middle East, to unspoilt lands in the roasting sunshine, yet not far from crystal clear blue waters. There is incense (real incense I might add), a gorgeous rose note, jasmine and a sandalwood dry-down to die for. The perfect scent perhaps?
Rum is a moderator on the Basenotes Forums
1996 by Byredo
: I’m not usually a massive fan of all things Byredo (although I am quite partial to a bit of ‘Pulp’ and ‘M/Mink’ every now and then) but the brand’s latest offering 1996, a perfume created for fashion photographers Inez & Vinoodh and inspired by a photo of theirs, is truly remarkable and is expertly crafted for a quasi-celebuscent.
1996 is very much in the same vein as Shalimar (the Queen of all Orientals) with a whole heap of iris powder and delectable vanilla. What sets 1996 apart from other, more pedestrian Orientals however, is a dark and bitter streak in its heart that is sharp, piquant and even slightly disturbing. It is nothing short of truly remarkable stuff.
Shanghai Lily by Tom Ford
: Also tickling my olfactory senses this year was Tom Ford’s Atelier d’Orient Collection, with Shanghai Lily serving as the standout fragrance. M. Ford’s approach to the orient was intriguing and (unsurprisingly for the brand) none of the scents were watery or thin in the same way that By Kilian’s idea of the East appears to be.
Shanghai Lily is a bouquet of rubbery lilies, sweet tuberose and spicy carnation with a splash of velvety vanilla for good measure. It gives the impression of flowers that are perhaps a day or two past their very best and is one of those perfumes that have an addictive quality. Mr. Ford, to you and your lilies I say ‘bravo’.
Thomas Dunckley is a self-proclaimed perfume nerd and is the writer of perfume blog thecandyperfumeboy.com
Thank you to all of the contributors for taking part! We hope everyone has a wonderful new year! See you in 2014!