As has become tradition, we ask our contributors, writers and forum moderators to look back at the last year and let us know which have been their best scents of 2016. If nothing wowed them in 2016 they could choose something new to them.
That's really it for this year. You folks have a fantastic 2017!
This Istanbul-based brand founded by Mert Güzel and Murat Katran was undoubtedly my 2016 standout, but which extrait de parfum to choose? Between the hedonistic coconut, rum and tobacco aroma of Fan Your Flames, the modern opulence of Ispartan rose paired with Egyptian jasmine in Rosa Turca, and the intoxicatingly musky green delight that is Sultan Vetiver it was a tough call.
For someone who would stay as far away from a citrus scent as a bottle of Mr. Clean, falling in love with this scent was nothing short of a revelation. Gone were my misconceptions that anything centered around lemon, lime & co. would inevitably make me smell like a cleaning solution or be doomed to have a substandard sillage. Instead, the multi-dimensional and captivating Wūlóng Chá reawakened me to a previously dismissed genre of perfume. Quite the extraordinary achievement for one 50ml bottle of scented liquid if you ask me.
Niche-wise, many new releases failed to leave a mark, and some even scraped out the insides of my nostrils with ice-picks (Sheiduna, Noir Exquis, Grand Soir). Relief came in the form of natural perfumes, such as the beautiful Arbole Arbole by Hiram Green, which I loved for its ability to transmute patchouli and woods into something completely different every time I wore it. If you look at the reviews, nobody seems to agree on the notes, and for an all-natural perfume to come off as a shape-shifter without any synthetics like hedione or Iso E Super helping out, that is quite a feat. I love its waxy, oily "green-brown" smell - it makes me feel like I am wearing galoshes and splashing about in muddy puddles, like Peppa Pig. It is comfortable and sexy. Yes, I realize I put the words "sexy" and "Peppa Pig" way too close to each other there, sorry.
I found the hype around Aeon 001 a little gimmicky, but when I got over myself a little bit and ordered a sample, I thought it was excellent - a smoky, animalic vetiver with a retro-floral background. It is very similar in style to Antonio Gardoni's other work, notably Maai and his discontinued Ker, so I am surprised it look almost nine months for people to figure out who the mystery perfumer was (Luca Turin spilled the beans). Now that I've mentioned Luca Turin, can we all agree that 2016 was just that much better because of his decision to come back to blogging? It was all too brief, but the experiment, perfumesilove.com, was brilliant while it lasted.
Slumberhouse is the line that never fails to bowl me over and New Sibet conjures up a cinematic, bronzed landscape — one that’s less literal than Norne. It’s a cerebral, scorched-earth musky leather perfume that hovers rather than cloaks you. Dark Ride remains the standout of the 2016 IAO Awards for me, largely because it pushed the envelope while staying on the right side of wearable. Muguet Porcelaine was a surprise. I dig the glassy watercolor aesthetic of Hermessence but I didn’t expect to enjoy this particular one as much as I do. Last, although I’m not a vetiver fan, I found Aeon 001 very easy to get along with and just enough of a detour from the familiar Bogue aesthetic. The bottle was something else, too.
Perfumes that impressed me but weren’t quite the right fit include Parfums Dusita’s Oudh Infini, House of Matriarch’s Kazimi, Scriabin in the Himalayas (2015, technically), Hiram Green’s Dilettante, and Masque’s L’Atessa. There were a lot of perfumes that I wanted to check out this year but wasn’t able to get my nose on, so hopefully I’ll play catch up in 2017.
Notes: Orange blossom, Petitgrain, Orange essential oil, Resins. (No lavender? I smell lavender)
It's a brisk herbal tonic that took a couple of wearings to get used to as the bitterness took me by surprise.
Orange blossom scents can go a bit soggy but Dilettante stays airy and radiant, and bitter. Though it softens a bit as it develops, it never becomes particularly sweet or floral. IT has good If you want something that is not as blindingly bright as Bigarade Concentrée or are looking for a less floral Séville à l'Aube, Dilettante is worth a try.
I’ll be honest, the fizzy opening notes are a tad too much for me - but I really start to enjoy it at about thirty seconds in. Once the fragrance settles down - despite it not being in the listed notes, I mostly get a lovely powdery iris that lingers for hours.
My other discovery of 2016 is Hot Thrills from the Poundshop. It’s pinky, it’s perky, it costs a quid - and I’ve smelt much, much worse.
Last spring/summer my #1 favorite of 2016 was Chanel No 5 L'Eau, which is an updated version of the original No 5. My favorite part is the sparkling top notes of aldehydes and citrus notes, makes it very bright and fresh. The note list includes lemon, mandarin, orange, aldehydes, rose, oxygenated jasmine, ylang ylang, vetiver, cedarwood and soft cottony musk notes. No 5 L'Eau is very well done and is more unisex than the original.
These are the 6 fragrances that made the biggest impression on me in 2016.
It took me to oranges and burnt copper in an instant. The tangerine concierge note is tart and crisp but the intro fades into the most luscious osmanthus, making the heart large and oval.
The dryness in the base notes of ginger hits the back of the nose in a coppery spicy net, trapping the cinnamon and clove like fiery embers.
Five roaring flames up for this one.
The fragrance that I’m looking forward to in 2017 is Superstitious, a collaboration between Frederic Malle and Alber Elbaz. It’s unmistakably a tribute to the master of elegantly draped cocktail dresses who left the fashion house in 2015.
My favourite launch of the entire year has got to be Blackpepper by Comme des Garcons. I’m a card carrying CDG enthusiast, but after Floriental last year (which was perfectly lovely for an amber but wasn’t particularly exciting to me), I wasn’t holding my hopes high. But my goodness did they deliver. Blackpepper is an explosion of pepper notes, in turn mouthwatering and sparkling, woody and dry, dark and luminous, roasted and fresh. It’s an absolute marvel.
And as I seem to have developed something of a reputation (??!?!?) for being Mr Oud, I ought to give a shout-out to Patricia De Nicolai's Oud Sublime, which showed that it is still possible to bring something new to the agarwood bandwagon. The composition links its eponymous note with a super-bitter artemisia, places it over the characteristically elegant Nicolai base of rose and amber and creates a thoroughly debauched delight.
"Sorry if I was staring. I just thought you might be one of the award winners from the event letting out."
"I am indeed. Mr. Burberry. Pleased to make your acquaintance. I just won Best New Masculine in Redneck Perfumisto's Wardrobe."
"Honored. Ultime here. L'Homme Ultime. And coincidentally, I just won Best New Flanker in Redneck Perfumisto's Wardrobe."
"Really! Well, then, the honor is mine."
"Why, thank you, Burberry."
"Mr. Burberry it is."
"I don't mean to be formal - it's the wife. She lays claim to the name. As I like to say, 'The only Burberry is My Burberry.'"
"Well, that's sweet. Married long?"
"Just a year."
"Then, congratulations again!"
"Why, thank you. And you said your name was Ultime?"
"Yes. L'Homme Ultime. But you can just call me Ultime. That's what Redneck calls me."
"I've heard quite a bit about your win, if I'm not mistaken. I seem to recall something about him wearing you for a month non-stop."
"Yes. That was a bit of an ego-boost, I have to admit. Of course, it's nothing like when he went crazy for Bleu de Chanel or Dior Homme Eau For Men, but still - it's not every year that he goes big on a flanker."
"Don't sell yourself short. You're extremely popular. I, on the other hand, have had quite a few insults hurled at me. Though not by anybody in Perfumisto's inner circle."
"Not just that, Burberry. I mean Mr. Burberry. One of his closest friends thought you were magnificent. The one with the good nose, who drops big money on classics."
"Yes. That was quite a moment. It's my herbal side. I'm quite mainstream overall, but get to know me, and my herbal nature comes out."
"Really! Well, I never thought anybody would notice."
"Redneck commented on it. He was having one of his 'aha' moments, when he realized you had a creamy sandalwood facet not unlike that highly-regarded old surfer."
"Yes, that's him."
"You seem to have all the inside information. Do you know why you were picked?"
"Two things. Staying true to the original, and smooth, persistent woodiness layered onto that. Keep it simple, and that's exactly what YSL did."
"So who won top honors? I was backstage when it happened."
"Me too. Let's ask that gal over there. She looks like she attended."
"Fixing a broken heel next to a streetlamp? I'm not so sure..."
"Excuse me, Miss! I beg your pardon, but I can't help thinking you must have just left the award ceremony."
"You wouldn't happen to have any super-glue on you, would you, Mister...."
"Ultime. L'Homme Ultime. No, I'm afraid I don't. But you're welcome to catch a cab with us. It's on me."
"Super. Yes. I was there. I introduced the winner."
"You didn't hear?"
"No! We were runners-up. Both of us. We were backstage."
"Number 5 L'Eau. The new Chanel."
"Good God. Sorry to butt in, Ultime. It's Mr. Burberry. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss...."
"Opium. Black Opium."
"Well no wonder you were making introductions. Rumor has it that RP was very impressed with you. 'Perfect blend of cute candy and serious sexy.' I think that was the quote."
"Yeah. I dug that one. Now if only he could convince his wife to like candy, which ain't gonna happen in a million years. Not exactly a surprise I'm stuck doing intros."
"So what's the story on L'Eau? What's the attraction? I thought he was eternally smitten with Eau Premiere."
"Oh. Let me tell you. EP is history. That is one cougar who is off the ranch."
"Americanism. It means lady."
"Oh. You have no idea. It's his wife. She thinks L'Eau walks on water. And HE thinks his wife smells like a movie star when she wears it. He's like buying her dresses to go with it."
"Well, now, that is serious."
"Oh. There was no way it was going to be anybody else. L'Eau was going to win before he even met her. She's one of Kid Polge's creations. The guy totally has Redneck's number."
"Does he wear L'Eau himself?"
"All the time. He couldn't stop at first. And THEN he realized she was even better on his wife."
"Look, guys. You fancy pants may have a lot of class and connections, but it's the chicks who run perfume. Get used to it."
"Now, L'Eau is actually quite strong, I hear."
"Yes. Don't be fooled by the diminutive free spirit girly act. Nor all the 'transparency' PR. Even her name is a psy-op, if you ask me. Her ylang-ylang is some kind of kung-fu invisibility shape-shifter variety that can whistle a boy down from 10 yards away, for hours on end."
"Oh, the innocent anime girl thing is totally an act. Trust me. She inherited all the moves from Eau Premiere. One would think she couldn't find Cleveland on a map of Cleveland. But one would be wrong."
"Be impressed. Luca Turin spotted her trashy side, but almost nobody else does. Red's friend David can't stand her. But you didn't hear that from me."
"Look - you don't wear the Chanel name without a little controversy. Please. I mean, who was Coco? NOT a schoolgirl. Fragrances - women - same thing. If you can't find the beautiful dirty mystery that opens the puzzle, you don't know her."
"And you're saying Red found it?"
"More like he walked into it like a grade A chump. He's still a bit clueless if you ask me."
"You're quite right, Mr. Burberry. We never had a chance."
"Boys - you just go right on thinking you run the place. We like it that way."
"I think I owe you an entire bottle of super-glue."
"Forget it. Cabbie! Three to go. Take these chumps wherever they want. It's on me."
Aside from this, I've really tried to like the mainstreams from 2015 - most notably Dior's Sauvage. No mater what, I just haven't been able to get it to work for me. If anything though, Dior's "natural ambroxan" marketing has propelled me to discover more about aroma chemicals in 2016. Ambrox of course and ISO E Super being my main focus points here.
But perhaps most notable of all in 2016 has actually come from the niche area. Tauer's LADDM has had a face lift (Au Coeur de Desért) - and I've talked for it! A really refined, less spicier, but perhaps woodier extract has been launched and for me it was an instant thumbs up. Andy has taken the world by storm again - and he's done it with very little tweaking if you ask me.
Here's to an ever more fragrant 2017!!
The ideal clean soapy musk fragrance has been my holy grail for an eternity (pun intended). I had loved Mugler Cologne for eons, but then lost interest in it. So I began a search. Dior Homme Cologne was almost it. Guerlain’s L’Homme Ideal Cologne started promising during a visit to Epcot, but fell flat in harsh summer heat testing. But Aqua Universalis is the exact scent that I’ve been scouring the earth for. It’s clean, light, has a unique twist of florals on top of the citrus and musk, and lasts all day. It scored an instant place in my collection. And it’s been on the market since 2009. What took me so long?
Here's a selection of other Best of 2016 fragrances from around the web:
What were your best fragrances of the last year? Let us know if you agree with our contributors in the comments.
We'll be also be opening up voting for the Annual Basenotes Awards very soon....