The Basenotes' Writers favourite fragrances of 2012
31st December, 2012
As we say toodle-pip to 2012, Basenotes takes a look back, and asks its writers to tells us what their favourite scents were of the last year. We didn't limit them to fragrances of 2012 though, we also said they could choose something that they discovered this year. Being fragrance fans though, some found it hard to pick a concise list! Take it away - Alfarom, Grant, Judith, Lila, Louise, Nick, Persolaise, Pia and Thomas...
2012 has been a year in which I found myself (re)discovering a lot of beauties from the past. Discontinued fragrances, classics and minor hidden gems from other eras. Despite that, the world of perfumery had obviously followed its path with boatloads of new releases but it seems that "tough times" have brought some niche firms to reconsider their original ideas and present safer compositions aimed to larger crowds (Comme des Garçons with their newPlay Series and Amazingreen; and Etat Libre D'Orange come to mind here).
That said, we still had the chance to experience some interesting fragrances either from solidly estabilished brands and/or new houses. Guerlain launched the Le Déserts D'Orient trio proving, once again, that when they do something right, there's still no match for anyone else out there. Songe D'Un Bois D'Etè, beside definitely being one of my favorite fragrances of 2012, have rapidly jumped up there in my top ten best Guerlains ever together with classic monsters such as Jicky, Mitsouko, Sous Le Vent and the likes.
A Wasser masterwork that's the living proof there's still hope for all Guerlainistas: Encens Mythique D'Orient is another composition that surely deserves a mention in this end-year summary as well as the new iterations of La Petite Robe Noire which are terrific examples on how to create a mainstreamish youthful fragrance that's cheerful and light-hearted while completely skipping the dullness.
On different territories, Vero Profumo's Mito have been another big winner in my book. Kern's tribute to green/floral chypres a-là Sous Le Vent and Mitsouko brought a breath of fresh air to the perfumery industry. As usual with all Vero's compositions, an old-fashioned bone structure is paired to a pleasantly quirky twist that clearly speaks of skills and talent. Once again, Vero Profumo demonstrates that you can still be innovative while speaking a classic language.
The oud craze seems to have not ended yet and despite the countless unremarkable deliveries from basically every house on the planet, there's still something note-worthy. Xerjoff launched the pretty solid "Oud Stars" series of which I particularly enjoyed Zafar. A challenging, straght forward, no-copromise fragrance that will appeal to fans of the most "exotic" ouds.
Ramon Monegal, a promising brand from Spain, introduced his consitent line worldwide. His Agar Musk, Impossible Iris, Ambra Di Luna, Cuirelle and Mon Patchouly (among others) have rapidly turned into some of the most discussed and talked about compositions of the year. The line strikes as no-nonsense type of stuff. Very wearable and easy to like with a particular attention on the packaging.
I'd like to add to my list a mention for two fragrances originally released in 2011 but launched in some territories in 2012. I'm talking about Neela Vermeire'sTrayee and Mohur by omni-present perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. Two GREAT takes on the oudy/woody/balmy oriental theme that while showing all of the Duchafours' hallmarks they bring the whole genre to a completely higher level that oozes with quality and inspiration.
Overseas, and more precisely in the US, Arquiste seems to have gained some attention and, appearantly, well deservedly. Anima Dulcis is my pick from this house to surely watch out. A soothing and full bodied warm spicy concoction with gourmandic facets. Extremely sophisticated, deep and absolutely distinctive.
Last but not least, two of my favorites brands involved in 100% natural perfumery gave some solid signs of their healthy condition. Abdes Salaam Attar Profumo delivered Tawaf. A terrific take on indolic jasmine and resins that you would expect from JAR if they were to release a fragrance for the UAE; and O'Driù, which launched Laurhum, JMT and Linfedele Haiku (among others). The former is a boozy-tobacco enriched by a massive dose of leathery castoreum, JMT is the ultimate, high-end, jasmine fragrance while Linfedele Haiku is basically O'Driu's best option for anyone who might be interested in exploring the house.
My favourite launches of 2012 would probably have to be the boozy, rich Aqua Alba from Angela Flanders and the lavendery loveliness of Parfumerie Generale's Djhenné.
BUT, my find of the year was a vintage bottle of Hai Karate which I scored on eBay..
I'd heard so much about this mythical fragrance which, according to folklore, has such a strong power to attract – you had to defend yourself with karate against hoards of admirers.
Sadly, this didn't happen. However, it didn't smell as bad as I had secretly hoped, and the 'collector' in me is pleased to have it in his collection, even though the 'connoisseur' in me is less keen...
My best of 2012? That’s a tough one. My interest in fragrance may date back to when I was a little girl - but its evolution into a proper, grown-up obsession is relatively recent. Inevitably then, my ‘new’ discoveries are, by and large, old news to everyone else. I discovered a shop this year - does that count? Thanks to Les Senteurs, I’ve been introduced to a whole raft of superb fragrances, some of which are probably destined to be on my list of all-time favourites.
If I had to pick something, it would have to be the two Tauers I tried - L’Air du Désert Marocain, and Lonestar Memories. I couldn’t really say which one I like the best - maybe Lonestar just has the edge - but on any given day it might depend on other factors, like what’s happening outside my window at the time; unsurprisingly perhaps, for me, L’Air comes into its own in the heat, whilst Lonestar is completely at home in darkness. I find them both incredibly evocative of the outdoors, of earth and sky, solitude and silence.
Judith Brockless works tirelessly behind the scenes at Basenotes, and occasionally is forced to write articles about Steps. You can follow her on Twitter @Juju_Basenotes.
My favourite new release of 2012: L'Eau de Chloe. It's based on roses, but not in a floral kind of way, more a cross section of part of a rose, a bit spicy and a bit green. It's easy to wear and great when you want to feel smart and well dressed for a professional appointment.
My favourite discovery was Aoud by Roja Dove. It's always a bit tragic when you fall in love with a rather expensive perfume, but I am saving my pennies for this gorgeous rose and aoud number. A little drop in the décolletage is magical.
Still, if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with! Kinski by Escentric Molecules was my other great find. It's a wild and sexy thing and I keep having to give samples to single friends because it's so good to go out on the prowl in.
Singling out my fragrance find of the year is just too difficult! So much of what I've smelled, I've loved, and almost all of it has been new (at least, to me it has been). I've adored the works of Mandy Aftel in particular this year, her Tango is something I carry around a tiny sample pot of at all times, I adore it so.
However, the works of Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermes have snuck into my heart in an unexpectedly big way this year. Ordinarily, I love my fragrances big and bombastic, and the crystalline clarity of Ellena's best works has left me in the cold somewhat, previously. For example: Bulgari Green Tea, would be an amazing scent if only it had some ... *welly*!
That said, this year, the release of Voyage d'Hermes Parfum (not the EDT) has set tongues wagging in the Lippie mansions, and inspired more than one debate about who gets to wear it today. Suffused with warmth, this lightly-spiced rose over an ambery-base smells expensive, clean, and extremely sexy. Whichever one of us is wearing it. Not bad work, bearing in mind we're more Wayne and Waynetta than Brad & Angelina! Quietly unisex, it's one of the few fragrances MrLippie and myself both wear regularly. Alongside this, Eau Des Merveilles in it's original incarnation has been a revelation to me, it is so quiet, so unassuming, and yet, so very, very beautiful. The smell of salt, skin and ambergris, it is deceptively simple, and yet has managed to capture this old cynic's heart in a very big way."
Louise has been writing the blog getlippie.com since 2009 in a (failed) attempt to rid herself of her lipstick addiction. She also writes regularly for SLiNK magazine. Follow her on Twitter @Get_Lippie
It's been very hard for me to pick, due to the sheer volume of new scents I've had pass by my nose this year, and I have no idea how many fragrances I'm 'allowed' to talk about, but those mentioned here have been my favourites.
This year, in feminine fragrances, was a year of new interpretations of floral notes. Jour d'Hermes by Jean Claude Ellena is probably my standout of the whole year. The latest launches at Hermes have been nothing short of fantastic. Jour feels like a scent he's been creating forever – a masterpiece full of nuance and light, suggesting a massive bouquet of mixed flowers, yet never smelling of any in particular. Very clever and it amazingly lasts forever.
Amorosa from Ruth Mastenbroek was love at first sniff for me, too, with a massively bright watermelon skin note taking centre stage at the opening, which gives way to a beautiful blend of white florals. And Penhaligon's Peoneve is wonderful, too – a lush rose-peony opening, with a wonderfully salty vetiver drydown. If you get a chance to sniff the Extrait, do it.
I'm not sure what kind of year it was for men, except for “Sport” heavy, but Spicebomb from Viktor & Rolf and Tom Ford's Noir gave me hope in mainstream masculines again.
I immediately bought a bottle of Parfumerie Generale's Djhenné, a lavender-leather-myrrh combo that is absolutely delicious and garners lots of compliments. And I've gone through an awful lot of EC2 from Bex London – which smells like gin, tonic, lime, vetiver, dust, glass and wet cement.
And I absolutely must mention Aqua Alba, the latest launch from Angela Flanders. Sheer perfection: animalic, earthy, and peaty, based on Whiskey. Not immensely boozy, but highly recommended for lovers of booze notes.
The Voice of Reason is my favourite of the new collection from Gorilla Perfumes at Lush. Smoky, earthy and somewhat meaty. Visiting their perfume gallery in Shoreditch was also one of the scent highlights of the year.
Andree Putman Preparation Parfumee was my rediscovery of the year, a scent that I had initially liked and completely forgotten about until someone mentioned it to @FragrantReviews in response to a review of another scent by Olivia Giacobetti – D'Orsay's Tilleul. Preparation Parfumee has a great pepper-seabreeze and driftwood note, amongst the watery florals that Giacobetti excels at.
And a line that I was glad to discover at Pitti Fragranze that deserves special mention is Nu_Be Perfume. Scents that are named for and inspired by the elements, the creation of the universe and life. The initial collection of 5 are all brilliant in their own way.
By day Nick Gilbert is the manager of Les Senteurs' Seymour Place shop, by night he is a scent super-hero and co-runs @FragrantReviews, a 140 character fragrance review project. Visit the blog for an archive of the reviews. He also tweets @nickrgilbert
Without any question, the most exciting brand I discovered this year is Arquiste. I still have such a vivid recollection of smelling their scents for the first time, and just being bowled over by how much there was to take in and think about and enjoy. All of them are well worth trying - including the latest, Boutonniere No. 7 - but for me the stand out is definitely Anima Dulcis. What can I say: chocolate, chillies and naughty nuns. All of this - and more! - in a perfume that manages to entice, perplex and seduce. It is very, very high on my 'Must buy' list at the moment. If only I could go without food for a month...
I must also mention The Afternoon Of A Faun from Etat Libre D'Orange. Sampling this generated one of those rare 'perfume shock' moments when you know you've just come across something that has the potential to be really special and you hope that it doesn't all fall apart by the time it gets to its drydown. Thankfully, it doesn't disappoint. Everything just 'clicks' with this perfume: the name, the concept, the reference to perfumery's past... and of course, the smell itself. It's an inky, mossy, back-to-basics chypre of the sort I thought we might never have again, and I'm so pleased it's been released by one of the edgiest, smartest brands around. I'm saving up my pennies for this one too. Perhaps I could stop paying for heating as well...
I've been busy in the lab myself this year which has naturally resticted how often I've worn perfume or had the time to explore boutiques and department stores. So, when I rushed out to buy one of the first copies of Le Snob: Perfume, Dariush's carefully selected shortlist in it inspired me to seek out some of the featured scents. Although I am familiar with most perfumes he's written about, there were a few that I
had only heard of. I was particularly drawn to his description of Comme des Garcons 2 Man as a quasi-mythical blend between snuffed candle smoke and leather.
I fell in love with it as soon as it hit the blotter. Its character brought to mind a bookish but distinguished man sitting in a well-stocked library reading dusty anthropology journals in candle light. It is sufficiently different from most masculine scents to warrant inspection purely on that basis but I would certainly recommend 2 Man for all leather fetishists, bibliophiles and steampunks out there.
Pia Long writes the Study Notes column for Basenotes and is a lifelong cosmetics and perfume enthusiast who has been involved in the industry for twenty years. Pia tweets @Nukapai
2012 has been a pretty good year for perfume launches. Yes there have been a phenomenal amount of new perfumes unleashed on to the market (there seems to be more and more each year doesn’t there?) but amongst all of the usual crowd pleasers and celebrity tat there has been some genuinely innovative and unique smells this year.
The launches that stand out for me are those that serve as a reminder that perfume still has the ability to surprise and that there is still room for something entirely new in an over-crowded industry. This year there were two perfumes that ticked all of the right boxes in terms of beauty and innovation, the most interesting of which being OUD by Maison Francis Kurkdjian (the other being Jour d’Hermès FYI).
Just when we were all getting sick and tired of the onslaught of oud-based perfumes the über talented Francis Kurkdjian put together a perfume that succeeded in completely subverting the genre by pairing the funky, leathery aspects of the noble rot with citrus and a ton of clean laundry musks. The effect succeeds in being both handsome and novel making OUD a perfume unlike any other.
Rumour has it that M. Kurkdjian may be working on another oud fragrance, I for one can’t wait to see what he comes up with in 2013.