The end of the year is almost upon us, so it seems like a good time for a “Year in Review” post with a list of favorites. I can’t say it has been easy for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I always struggle with lists, both in terms of placement and selecting the thing which will take that last spot. For another, I think I may be a little fickle in terms of my favorites, as perfumery can be as much about mood as other subjective factors.
In the case of fragrances that debuted in 2013, it’s been even harder. Honestly, I wasn’t impressed by the vast majority of the new releases that I tested, and the ones I did enjoy wouldn’t amount to a full ten in number. I’m not going to put something on a list simply and solely to round out the numbers, especially if I was underwhelmed with the scent in question or thought it had some serious problems. Take, for example, Tom Ford‘s Shanghai Lily from the Atelier d’Orient line. It is a scent that I liked the most out of Tom Ford’s various new collections this year, but that is a relative thing, not an absolute thing. Just because I liked it more than the rest of the 2013 Tom Fords doesn’t mean I would classify the scent as one of the best of the year. I certainly wouldn’t include Plum Japonais which I found to be a badly done, distorted copy of my beloved Fille en Aiguilles from Serge Lutens.
Another problem is that I’m not sure I should include one scent that was supposed to be released this year, and which I adored when I got to test it, but whose release was subsequently pushed back until Spring 2014. It is Neela Vermeire‘s Mohur Extrait, the formerly named Mohur Esprit. It would definitely be in my list of top 2013 favorites, and I considered saving it for the Best of 2014. In the end, I’ve cheated by including it here for 2013 with an asterisk next to its name.
In reality, my absolute favorite fragrances came from a wide range of years, but since this is the first year of the blog, everything was technically “new” for the purposes of my reviews. So, I’m going to do two lists or, to be more technically accurate, 2.5 lists: my top fragrances released in 2013, even if the number falls short of ten; then my personal top 10 of the perfumes I covered in 2013, followed by the next 15 for an overall top 25 favorites.
TOP NEW RELEASES OF 2013:
LM Parfums Hard Leather. Lust in the woods. A scent that, despite the “leather” in its name, is really more about dark woods, oud, incense, and sandalwood, than it is about leather. That said, the stunning, lusty leather and animalic musk give Hard Leather the best opening of a fragrance that I’ve tried in years. Pure, utter sex appeal, and lust. Sex in a bottle. An opening that sweeps me off my feet each time I smell it, and a gorgeous drydown as well. The middle stage isn’t particularly my cup of tea, but if one takes the scent as a whole and judges things on the basis of how intensely one wants a full bottle, then Hard Leather has to come in at first place. That said, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. For one thing, I think Hard Leather skews very masculine in nature, and even some men may find it excessively dry, dark, or animalic, but I loved it and it is my favorite new fragrance of 2013.
Neela Vermeire Mohur Extrait** I like the regular Mohur eau de parfum, but Mohur Extrait is profoundly stronger, deeper, and richer. It has a va-va-voom oomph that transforms the pale, quiet, restrained, sometimes excessively delicate rose Mohur into Cinderella at the ball. A Cinderella with a diva’s charisma, and wearing the most opulent ball gown and jewels around. Mohur Extrait is a deep, rich, potent blend of roses, with real Mysore sandalwood, iris, and violets. There is a touch of leather, smoky elemi, and pepper to prevent it from being too dainty or femme, and the whole thing sits on an ambered base that is faintly milky but always infused with that beautiful, rich, creamy Mysore sandalwood. Mohur Extrait is simply beautiful, and a head-turner. **I’m cheating, as Mohur Extrait’s release has been pushed back until 2014, but dammit, it debuted at the Milan Esxence show, so I’m going to include it in my list of 2013 releases.
- Viktoria Minya Hedonist. A stunningly golden, happy, but refined, sophisticated, lush, floral oriental, Hedonist sparkles and soothes at the same time. It opens with Bourbon-like, boozy, dark honeycombs that are infused with lush peach, heady jasmine, citrus notes and some orange blossom, all perfectly blended in a soft, golden cloud. It eventually turns into a honey, beeswax and vanilla scent that soothes you in its soft sweetness. Whenever I wear it, I feel calmer, more relaxed, like a cat stretching out in the warmth of the sun. Hedonist has a truly classique feel of haute perfumery, but it never feels dated or old-fashioned, in my opinion. It is elegant and opulent without being excessive, heady but perfectly balanced, and sparkles in a way that reminds me both of champagne and the sunniest of skies in the South of France. Truly beautiful, and a stunning debut from Viktoria Minya.
Oriza L. Legrand Chypre Mousse. Elfish green and the floor of a fairy forest filled with the essence of nature in a delicate but strong bouquet of oakmoss, wet leaves, mushrooms, herbs, a strip of dark leather taken over by nature’s minted greens, and a touch of balsamic resins. It’s really hard to describe in many ways, as this is not a traditional chypre, and may be the most unusual, otherworldly scent I’ve encountered. Chypre Mousse stopped me in my tracks, made me turn around on my way to the mecca of Serge Lutens to buy my bell jar, and became something I had to have after a mere 15 minutes, further tests or development be damned. Chypre Mousse won’t be for everyone, but those who love it will experience an incredibly potent, extremely green fragrance that lasts an enormous amount of time for such a seemingly delicate, ethereal scent.
Amouage Fate Woman. Fate Woman is a beautiful chypre-oriental hybrid that starts off as a very restrained, cool, aloof scent that smells of citruses, oakmoss, and cool daffodils. Like shedding a sculptured black dress to reveal the sensuous lingerie underneath, Fate Woman turns warmer, more opulent, and sensuous with roses, jasmine, animalic notes, and creamy vanilla that is almost gourmand-like at times. The sensual, sophisticated heart turns warmer and more golden as the fragrance ends on labdanum amber, vanilla, and soft musk in a creamy blend that feels like cuddles after a heated night. I’m not a fan of the soapiness that appears at one point, but Fate Woman is a beautiful scent that starts off as controlled restraint before ending in warm abandon.
Neela Vermeire Ashoka. Ashoka is a creamy, milky fig and sandalwood fragrance with incense, peppered woods, iris, and other subtle tonalities. It has an enormously comforting vibe that feels like a mother’s warm embrace. It is not my favorite NVC creation, as it is far from my personal style which is much better suited to Neela Vermeire’s bolder, spicier creations. However, it is very well done, and an elegant fragrance that is definitely one of the top releases of the year as a whole. If any of the other NVC perfumes have felt too intense, too oriental, complicated, or fiery, then Ashoka will be for you.
Lys Epona Lys Epona. Lys Epona is from a new French perfume house by the same name and sponsored by Jovoy Paris. It is a beautiful scent that caught my attention from the moment I sniffed it at Jovoy and, despite its sillage flaws and longevity problems, it is very well-done, extremely evocative, and has a very vintage vibe. It is also original, taking delicate white lilies, and infusing them with dark, animalic leather, and grassy, outdoorsy elements ranging from hay to daffodils, grass, and amber. The scent is supposed to replicate the dance between a courtesan and a Hussar cavalry officer in France’s elite Republican Guard. For me, however, it conjured up a Celtic princess astride a large white stallion, garbed in a softly burnished, slightly musky, brown leather cuirass, and draped with white lilies. Her skirt is made of hay, wheat and grass; her skin is coated in ambered oil; and her long hair braided with daffodils that matched the flowers in her horse’s mane. Truly, very well done, and the vintage, antique bottles from the 1930s are a perfect accompaniment to the scent.
Tauer Perfumes PHI – Une Rose de Kandahar. Andy Tauer’s PHI is a deep, spicy apricot-rose confection with rich vanilla mousse, dark green elements that almost feel mossy, and oriental flourishes ranging from tobacco to cinnamon and ambergris. It’s far from your usual rose scent, and I’d argue that the deep, dark flower isn’t even the main star of the show at times. PHI is a vibrant, sophisticated Oriental-hybrid with the faintest gourmand touches in a rich blend that that even those who don’t particularly like rose fragrances might enjoy.
Parfums Retro Grand Cuir. Contradictions and paradoxes lie at the heart of Grand Cuir, which explores leather from one end of the spectrum to the other under the most civilized and sophisticated of veneers. It starts as raw leather coated with birch tar and pungent herbs before turning into the expensive, new black leather of a biker’s jacket, then burnished, softly aged leather with amber, before ending up as the most refined of creamy Italian suedes infused with amber, lavender, and skin-like musk. It’s a journey that is at once animalic and aldehydic, soapy clean, beginning as a masculine scent that is an aromatic, herbal fougère with leather, before it transforms into something very different. And the whole thing is done sotto voce, with the quiet firmness of a confident man who doesn’t believe he has to be flashy and loud to draw attention to himself. Very well done, and very refined.
MY PERSONAL TOP 10 FOR 2013:
Perfume reviewing is subjective by nature, but whittling down those personal choices into a favorites list is even more so. No-one ever agrees fully on a Top Ten list, whether it’s for movies, television shows, food, or some other category, and perfume is no different. So, I don’t expect any of you to agree with everything or even some of the things on this list, but these are my absolute favorites out of the modern, non-vintage scents available on the market and that I’ve tried this year.
I’ve struggled for hours over the placement and order, because I can be fickle and prefer some scents over others depending on mood. After re-testing a number of these, I think I have the order set, more or less, with the caveat that there may be a standard deviation of +1 or -1 for the fragrances listed. In other words, on one day, a fragrance coming in at #4 may be at #3 or #5 from one day to the next, but not really more than that. Then again, I can be a little fickle, ranking things is an utter nightmare, and who knows if this would be the precise order in two months from now? I did my best for now, however, so this is the list thus far.
- LM Parfums Hard Leather. As noted in my description above, I think this is sexy as hell. I’ll spare you additional heated descriptions, as I quite lose my cool whenever it comes to this fragrance.
Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles. At first sniff, Fille en Aiguilles is Christmas in a bottle, from the pine tree before the fire to sugar-plum treats. Look closer, though, and you’ll find Fille en Aiguilles is really all about the frankincense. Spiralling swirls of dark smoke weave its way around the pine, the crushed needles on the forest floor, and the plummy fruits infused with ginger and spices. There is warmth and sweetness, despite the chill in the snowy forest outside. From start to finish, Fille en Aiguilles is my favorite scent from my favorite house. To my amusement, each and every time that I’ve taken perfume samples to share with friends, Fille en Aiguilles is consistently the one that men fall for. The last time I sprayed Fille en Aiguilles on someone, there were precisely 6 women sniffing his neck, his arms, and his chest. I practically had to fight him from grabbing my travel decant there and then for himself. Yet, Fille en Aiguilles is wholly unisex in nature; out of all the people I know who wear it, the vast majority are women.
Puredistance M. A masterpiece from Roja Dove, M has a citric chypre opening reminiscent of Hermès’ vintage Bel Ami that turns to a rich, smooth leather that briefly smells like the most expensive car seats. Soon, the leather is burnished by cognac, becoming soft, rich, and oiled with honeyed roses, jasmine, spices, and beeswax. At times, it feels a little like Serge Lutens‘ Cuir Mauresque (see below at #11), but the leather phase doesn’t dominate the scent. In my opinion, the true essence of M is a molten, oriental labdanum amber. Simply stunning, from start to finish, and one of my favorite fragrances. I believe that M is unisex in nature, thanks to the florals and the honeyed amber drydown with cinnamon-dusted vanilla, but it will depend on one’s yardstick. Those who love pure florals, powdery scents, or gourmands will probably consider M to skew masculine.
Neela Vermeire Trayee. Someone once called Trayee a “force of nature,” in a slightly overwhelmed, stunned tone, and I think that’s quite true. The Bertrand Duchaufour creation is fiery, spicy, smoky, dusty, and woody, dominated by genuine, almost rare Mysore sandalwood in copious amounts that runs through the fragrance from top to bottom like a luscious red-gold vein. There are also two different kinds of Jasmine absolute, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, ginger, frankincense, oud, amber, and a plethora of other notes, all superbly blended into a bouquet that is dry, dusty, spicy, sweet, and smoky. Trayee is intense, no doubt about it, but in its later development, it loses its dry, dusty, spiced smokiness, softens and turns warm with smooth, creamy sandalwood, and deep, slightly smoky amber. Trayee is a tempestuous, stormy, fiery, rich mix that I find utterly mesmerizing. If the perfume were a woman, she’d probably be the famous, legendary diva, Maria Callas, with a touch of the young Sophia Loren in all her hot-heated, Italian ways and a dash of the fierce Mistral wind. It is definitely a force of nature that evokes India in all its multi-faceted, complicated splendour.
Amouage Tribute attar. Perhaps the smokiest of the smoky greats, Tribute reminds me of Darth Vader’s perfect rose, a rose thoroughly infused with darkness and smoke. It’s utterly spectacular, though the variations in batch numbers is troublesome, leading some versions to be out-of-balance and with such disproportionate smokiness that a handful of people have reported experiencing an almost ashtray-like note. Still, the version I tested was magnificent, and makes Tribute my favorite Amouage scent thus far.
Chanel Coromandel (Les Exclusifs). My favorite, modern Chanel scent is Coromandel, hands down and by a landslide. It’s probably no surprise, as it is made by my favorite perfumer, the brilliant Christopher Sheldrake who normally works with Serge Lutens. Coromandel begins on an intense frankincense note before turning into a milky Chai tea dusted with white chocolate powder and infused with deep, mellow patchouli. It is my favorite sort of patchouli with its nutty, smoky, woody, spicy, ambered warmth, instead of that vile purple, fruited, syrupy, fruit-chouli. The whole mix is perhaps the most refined, addictive, creamy patchouli-incense fragrance I have encountered. If I could take a bath in Coromandel nightly, I would, because I find something endlessly soothing and indulgent about its ambered, golden warmth.
Serge Lutens Fourreau Noir. Nothing in Fourreau Noir should make it a fragrance that I would like, as I normally despise lavender with a fiery passion. I’m actually quite phobic about the note, and the mere mention of the word makes me shudder. But there is magic in Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake’s touch, and the two wizards created the most beautiful scent imaginable. It helps that Fourreau Noir is ultimately not about the lavender at all, in my opinion, but about the incense. From the very first moment, until the fragrance’s end in a cloud of spiced, mellow, patchouli infused with amber and vanilla, the dark tendrils of black smoke weave their way around you. It also helps that the dried lavender transforms into creamy lavender ice-cream with almonds. The real gem in Fourreau Noir, however, is that incense and ambered-patchouli cocoon at the heart of the scent. It says something when a lavender-phobe can love a fragrance with a note they despise; it says more when they go out of their way to purchase an expensive bell jar of it. Which I did….
Téo Cabanel Alahine. A Moroccan souk filled with spices under a turquoise sky. Sumptuous, dark, red roses concentrated to their headiest essence. Golden amber as far as the eye can see with rich, dark, toffee’d caramel, labdanum amber. A powerfully start of incredibly booziness, but a finish that is pure, vintage Bal à Versailles without the skank or dirtiness. Alahine is a fiery, spicy, incredibly complex, oriental monster that may require a bit of Stockholm Syndrome to love. Spray on too much, she’ll blow out your nose, or traumatize you. Don’t give her enough time or tests, and you’ll be misled into thinking she is all booziness, Moroccan spices, and smoke. It seems to require four tests to understand Alahine, and not be overpowered by her intense, smoldering start. It can take time to see that her real nature is the most sophisticated of slinky black dresses, cut low and deep, with a va-va-voom glamour that is opulent, French classicism at its best. Yet, Alahine ends as a really plush, soft, golden, slightly powdered warmth that is as rich as a cashmere, camel overcoat. Don’t let the roses fool you; Alahine is unisex, and I know a number of very masculine men who love its boozy, spiced fieriness deeply.
Dior Mitzah (La Collection Privée). A start of dark incense that belongs in a Chinese temple, followed by an ode to labdanum amber in all its richness. Labdanum is the true form of amber, and Mitzah highlights all of its facets from honeyed, toffee’d, slightly dirty, occasionally leathery, and deeply warm in an incredibly refined blend that is also infused with smoke, roses, and patchouli. It’s a wave of richness that made Mitzah much loved, and I find it utterly baffling that Dior decided to discontinue one of its most popular scents. However, you can still find Mitzah online and at Dior boutiques while supplies last, so if you haven’t tried the scent and you love amber, I urge you to get a sample as soon as you can.
- Oriza L. Legrand Chypre Mousse. (See above. Or, better yet, read the review, as this is one scent that is very hard to describe.)
THE NEXT 15 FOR THE LIST OF THE TOP 25.
Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque. Cuir Mauresque is a shamefully under-appreciated fragrance, in my opinion. It’s one of my favorite leather scents, and, apparently, Serge Lutens’ own choice of perfume to wear. He and Christopher Sheldrake focus on taming animalic leather by infusing it first with clove-studded oranges and spices, then hefty amounts of heady jasmine absolute and orange blossoms. He uses powder to cut through the animalic skank and civet, keeping it perfectly balanced, while also weaving in dark incense, styrax, cedar and ambered resins. The resulting combination resembles Bal à Versailles at times, and oozes pure sex appeal, in my opinion. Cuir Mauresque is wholly unisex in nature. Some men find the leather too powdery, while some women find the skank to be a little too much. It will depend on your tastes. I’ve started using my parents — aka The Ultimate Perfume Snobs who taught me about perfumery to begin with– as my yardstick for other people’s perception of “skank” and leather. My father who finds Hard Leather to be too animalic and “dirty” has Cuir Mauresque as his second favorite leather scent after Puredistance M. In contrast, my mother (who adores Hard Leather and doesn’t find it to be “dirty” at all) thinks Cuir Mauresque is feminine sex appeal and utterly addictive. Your yardstick may vary, but if you love leather fragrances and some skank, then you really should try Cuir Mauresque.
- Viktoria Minya Hedonist. (See above.)
Profumum Roma Ambra Aurea. Profumum’s ode to goldenness focuses not on amber, but on ambergris in all its deep, rich, salty, musky glory. It’s a very different matter and aroma, as my review tries to make clear. Ambra Aurea is the thickest, most golden, opaque, intense, salty-caramel amber fragrance around, a veritable deluge of one note heightened to its most concentrated essence with 43%-46% perfume oils. It’s a linear, non-stop soliflore that coats your skin for hours on end, emitting a slight smokiness from incense. There are strong undertones of labdanum amber that are, alternatively, nutty, toffee’d, honeyed, faintly dirty, and almost chocolate-y at times. In its final stage, Ambra Aurea smells of amber and incense with beeswax, saltiness, and sweetness. Lovely on its own, and lovely when used as a layering base, Ambra Aurea is the single richest amber on the market. It blows all the others out of the water, in my opinion, especially Serge Lutens‘ Ambre Sultan which also has a labdanum focus but which is like water in comparison.
LM Parfums Sensual Orchid. A seductive floral oriental, Sensual Orchid is centered on the eponymous flower. On my skin, the orchid is a delicate, pastel, floral note that feels as crystal clear, clean, bright and sparkling as a bell rung at the top of the Swiss alps. It smells of lilies, peonies, hyacinth, rose, jasmine, vanilla — all wrapped into one in a cool, clean, crystal liquidity. It is followed by the richest ylang-ylang; custardy vanilla; a hint of smoky woods; bitter, green-white almonds; and boozy cognac fruitedness. The final result is incredibly narcotic, dramatic, opulent, and heady. For me, Sensual Orchid is all about dressing to undress, and to seduce. It is a scent that definitely skews feminine in nature, though I know a number of men to love it as well.
Jardins d’Ecrivains George. Feminine orange blossoms turned masculine in an ode to George Sand. The potent flowers are transformed into something leathered, dark, and faintly dirty with tobacco, resins, and more. From a mentholated beginning with neroli, George slowly takes on paper, coffee, and tobacco notes, followed by heliotrope, myrrh and Peru Balsam in a play of hardness and softness, lightness and dark, masculine and feminine. Leathered orange blossoms is quite an original take on the usually indolic flowers, and I was taken enough by George to buy a full bottle. Some find the scent far too masculine for a woman, which rather defeats the whole point of a fragrance meant to reflect the particular character of George Sand. I think it’s unisex, though you have to like your neroli and orange blossoms with a dark, dirty edge.
Arabian Oud Kalemat. Kalemat is a fantastically affordable, easy, rich oriental centered on a honeyed amber with tobacco, incense, and dry cedar tonalities. It opens with dark berries that smell like blueberry purée, infused with honey and incense, then a rich, deep Damascena rose joins the party. Eventually, Kalemat turns into a non-powdery, more concentrated version of Serge Lutens’ tobacco-y Chergui with touches of Hermes’ Ambre Narguilé, Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille, and, for some, Amouage’s Interlude Man. There is a subtle whiff of oud underlying the mix, along with dried cedar. Heady and potent at first, Kalemat becomes a sheer cloud that envelopes you in a golden haze of sweetness, dryness, woodiness and incense. It lasts for hours and hours, smells incredibly expensive, and is highly affordable. If you love ambers, tobacco-incense fragrances, or sweet scent like any of those mentioned above (including Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille), then you really should give Kalemat a sniff.
- Amouage Jubilation XXV (Men). I love Jubilation XXV, and always regret that it has very little longevity on my wonky skin. What a beautiful opening! Dark oranges infused with incense, balsamic resins, cedar, patchouli, ambergris and a faint touch of oud in a deep, rich blend that often makes me think of Hermès‘ Elixir de Merveilles, but better. A few hours later, Jubilation XXV takes you to the wintery outdoors, with a large stone campfire amidst a dark, dry Guaiac forest, a brisk, chill in the air and the smell of burning leaves. There is a slightly medicinal, synthetic, pink band-aids undertone to the oud, but the fragrance is really well done as a whole. If Jubilation XXV lasted on my skin beyond a mere 5.5 hours, it would be ranked much higher.
Nasomatto Black Afgano. In essence, Black Afgano is a super-concentrated, richer, deeper version of YSL‘s fabled M7 in its original, vintage form. It’s a smoky plethora of darkness from the dark, quasi/fake “hashish” elements and cherry-cola labdanum amber with all its nutty, toffee’d undertones, to the incense, the oud (supplemented by Norlimbanol), leather tonalities, and resinous sweetness. I didn’t enjoy the synthetic nuances to the oud or the Norlimbanol, but I liked the fragrance as a whole. It seems Black Afgano may have been reformulated to dilute some of its super smokiness and render the fragrance more sweet, as it wasn’t the dark monster of brutish repute that I had expected. If it has changed, then perhaps the reformulation merely makes it more unisex. Those looking for a version of vintage M7 with deeper potency, sillage, and longevity, should definitely check out Black Afgano.
Serge Lutens De Profundis. A hauntingly delicate, evocative floral that captures the essence of flowers in purple twilight and feels like a call to Spring. It opens with its core note, chrysanthemums. that have been blended with violets, green notes, white lilies, and sweet, wet earth. Lurking at the edges are peonies, chamomile flowers, incense, a dash of light roses, a whisper of purple lilacs, and some ISO E Super. The flowers feel incredibly dewy and light, almost tender and soft. It is as though they are just waking up, releasing the airiest of delicate floral scents. De Profundis is, at the start, a cool fragrance that is almost chilly in its delicacy. As time passes, however, the floral aroma becomes stronger, more robust, almost as if the flowers have fully bloomed in the sunlight. The dew has evaporated, the petals unfurled, and the meadow floor comes to life with earthy softness, light smoke, and every bit of green around. De Profundis is a bit too watery for my personal tastes, and I’m generally not one for pure florals, but it’s hard not to be swayed by its pale, ethereal delicacy. It is really a hauntingly elegant scent.
Dior Ambre Nuit (La Collection Privée). If Mitzah was Dior’s ode to labdanum amber, then Ambre Nuit must be its homage to ambergris. On my skin, Ambre Nuit is smoky, liqueured, salty-sweet amber, with dry woods and a quiet touch of delicate roses that have been rendered a little fiery from pepper and a little sweet from patchouli. It is laced with black incense, creating a mix that evokes parts of Chanel’s Coromandel. There is something extremely sensuous about Ambre Nuit which often makes me think of the Argentinian tango. The ambergris’ special, unique features evoke the warmth of heated, slightly musky skin that has been rendered just the faintest bit salty from sweat. The incense conjures up the smoky, dark feel of those dance rooms, while the gaiac and cedar replicate the incredibly smooth, wooden floors that the dancers glide across. The rose never features much on my skin, though it does on others. On me, the patchouli is more prominent with its spicy, sweet, often chocolate-y mellowness. It’s a beautiful combination, and my second favorite scent from Dior’s refined Privée line.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour Le Soir. Described by some as beastly, by others as “dirty,” Absolue Pour Le Soir is my favorite from MFK, but how you respond to it will depend very much on your personal yardstick for honey, cumin, and animalic notes. For me, Absolue conjures up the heart of a Turkish harem besieged by musky, leather-armoured warriors. They bang on the sandalwood doors which open to release spirals of incense, as honey-swathed concubines approach to tempt with deep roses and indolic ylang-ylang. Absolue Pour Le Soir begins as an instant war between warm human flesh, the mysteries of floral-draped women, sweet honeyed intimacy, animalic leather, and feral, musky masculinity. As if tamed, the fragrance later softens to a creamy, spiced sandalwood infused with honey, dark resins, frankincense, and a dollop of roses. It’s lovely, though I’ve found myself holding it at more of a distance these days, perhaps because of the sharpness of the honey which is a core element of the scent. Still, if you want a truly skanky Oriental with the most golden of ambered hues and endless layers of complexity, you should rush to try Absolue Pour Le Soir.
- Amouage Fate Woman. (See description above.)
Tauer Perfumes’ Une Rose Chyprée. I’m generally not one for rose scents, but Andy Tauer’s Une Rose Chyprée is an exception. It’s a spectacular chypre-oriental hybrid that features an autumnal, ambered rose nestled in the mossiest of green cocoons. The fragrance swirls all around you in a veiled shimmer of greens, garnet red, earthiness, and mossy trees — all rolled into one. This is a green rose whose petals were crushed into the damp, wet soil of the forest floor; a rose that lies nestled amidst fresh, just slightly mineralized, faintly bittersweet mosses; a rose infused with the concentrated essence of a thousand dark green, slightly spicy, peppered leaves, then sprinkled with hints of alternatively tart and zesty citruses. It is a rose that is fruited, but spiced with cinnamon, and wrapped with the tendrils of black incense. Some chypres can be haughty, cold, aloof numbers that keep you at a distance. Une Rose Chyprée is almost a coquettish chypre that beckons you with a sweet smile, despite the emeralds and rubies glowing around her elegant, rosy throat. If it didn’t have an enormous amount of ISO E Super and didn’t give me a ferocious, piercing headache, I would definitely be tempted to buy a full bottle. Nonetheless, it’s an absolutely beautiful scent, and my favorite from Andy Tauer.
- Tauer Perfumes’ PHI – Une Rose de Kandahar. (See description above.)
Puredistance Opardu. I’m not the sort to be deeply moved by pure florals, but Opardu has one of the most beautiful openings in the genre that I’ve encountered in years. It almost gave me whiplash as I smelled the bouquet of lilacs — vast fields of purple with a scent that was concentrated, pure, and incredibly delicate. It was followed by violets, tuberose, jasmine, lush gardenia and heliotrope in a stunning mix. It is pure, unadulterated, classique, haute elegance that calls back to the golden age of perfumery. On my skin, unfortunately, that spectacular start lasts only a brief hour before it fades, and then sheer, vaguely floral powderiness takes over. If there were a way to capture and retain that beginning, Opardu would undoubtedly be in my Top 10. As it is, I think it’s a beautifully feminine fragrance with Puredistance’s signature touch of great refinement, elegance, and luxuriousness.
So, that’s my Year in Review. I may end up having a separate post next week that divides fragrances into categories, from Ambers and Leathers, to Floral Orientals, Pure Florals, Gourmands, and the like. I’m still undecided, as I know it will take forever to compile, and some genres may only have one or two entries in it. Others may have far too many to choose from. In case you hadn’t noticed, I tend to focus on Orientals, and I rarely stick my toe into such fields as foodie gourmands, crisp colognes, or aldehydic fragrances. Plus, many Orientals are either hybrids or have two or more dominant elements that can make the scent fall into different categories. As a result, I’m not sure how useful or precise such a list will be, but we shall see.
As the year draws to a close, I want to wish you all Happy Holidays. I hope that the upcoming year brings you endless joy, peace, prosperity, good health, success, love and laughter. Thank you for staying on this journey with me, and here’s to a great 2014!
Aha, you can do en bref in the traditional meaning! Traditional and Non-Traditional Greetings of the Season to you and Zola. I like the way you will not be harnessed by a Top Ten, nor will you be bridled! Jubilation XXV – now I have been waiting all year for Jubilation XXX, the 30th Anniversary scent by Amouage which I am reviewing tomorrow, at last! And just kidding. Are ya standing? Is my aromatic arithmetic out? How is your maths Mr? When is the XXX anniversary of this fabled and able house?
My dear Jordan, so much succinctness well-nigh killed me. 😉 And I’m hopeless at math, especially now that my brain is fried, but I think we’re past Amouage’s 30th anniversary, no? Perhaps they’re waiting to celebrate the 50th for their next anniversary commemoration. lol. Happy holidays, my friend.
I love your taste Kafka. As I read your list I’m just like yes, Yes, YES! I wish I could get that Lys Epona.
Cohibadad, thank you for the kind words. Re. Lys Epona, have you gotten a sample from Surrender to Chance? If you have and still love it, I’m sure there are ways around Jovoy’s shipping limitations. We can put our heads together to find one, if the scent ends up working out for you. I am sure you could get it easily and after a few weeks by using Suzann’s personal shopping service.
Oh nice. I will get a sample. I didn’t know it was available. I am heading to S2C once I click Post Comment. Hard Leather sounds so good too. Too bad I need to wait a bit. I love your list. I love your taste. I am disappointed that Mohur Extrait is delayed. I was so looking forward to it.
Delicious lists, and though I would agree that 2013 could not be described a ‘great vintage’ when you read the names of your chosen nine there are some absolute stand outs (especially for obvious reasons those leathers).
It’s so splendid to discover too those discoveries you’ve made this year. George is rather lovely, non? Though it proved a touch fleeting on my skin, and Black Afgano raised a smile: I have a friend who is almost narcotically obsessed with it. Coromondel, Mitzah, Trayee these are all wonderful scents to be conjured with.
So as we look forward to 2014, here’s to a better year, and more adventures in both the past and present in perfumery!
The Perfumed Dandy
My darling Beau, thank you for the praise and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what adventures we shall have, the two of us, in the new year. Meeting you has been an utter joy, even if it is limited to this indirect virtual world. With regard to the glorious scents of 2013, there have been some definite beauties, though far less than I would have thought. Too many generic rose-ouds, fruit-chouli roses, or things thrown together without a care for actual beauty. The ones that stood out for me definitely are a cut above the rest, so there is hope in the midst of oud world domination. lol 😉
Re. George, did it really last only a brief time on your skin? How sad. 🙁 Did you spray or dab on a lot. Not that it matters if the longevity didn’t work for you. I’m saddened as I *always* associate you with some form of leather, and I thought the orange blossom twist may have suited you. Dommage, but I’m looking forward to hearing what think of Hard Leather when it hits the UK in 2014. Have a wonderful holiday, my dearest Beau Brummell.
We snap on a few and some I haven’t even tried. I feel monstrously derelict in my duties as frag lover and blogster.
Thank you for adding to my list of must try and Happy Holiday Season.
Dear Portia, one of the regrets I have for this year is not having the chance to get to know you better. I am determined to remedy that in 2014! As for the list, you’re not derelict at all! We all just try different things, and I’m sure there are plenty on your list that I would love to explore. Out of my favorites, the ones that I’d be most curious to know your thoughts on are: Hard Leather, Sensual Orchid (Gosh, I think you’d LOVE that one!), Fourreau Noir, George, and Kalemat. Here’s hoping that you get to test them in 2014. I hope it’s a wonderful year for you and Jin. Have a blast on your upcoming trip.
The only one I’ve tried from that list is Kalemat, which I enjoyed immensely. The rest are on the sample list already.
I feel I know you through your blog but it will be wonderful to be better acquainted through 2014. I look towards it with anticipation.
This is a beautiful and comprehensive list of ‘the greats’. Really well written, terse, descriptive and evocative. A list that all perfume lovers will treasure. Great writing and research, Kafka!
Thank you, Tora. That means a lot to me. It really does. 🙂 As for the briefness of the descriptions, it almost killed me. *grin* That and the ridiculous number of showers I’ve had to take over the last 3 days to remove all the smears and sprays of re-tested perfume that covered my body from head to toe. I look like a prune right now! Apparently, there actually *is* such a thing as too much perfume in one go…. 😉
We honor you sacrifice in the name of good solid research!
Oops, I mean ‘your’.
I just totally swooned over your recap description of Chypre Mousse. If I didn’t already have and love it, I’d have to have it right now! You are quite the fragrant enchanter, dear Kafka.
While I regret that PHI and Fate Woman didn’t work on me, I do love SOOO many of these that you’ve described, and I’m quite afraid to try Hard Leather for fear I’ll love it!
I’ve been wearing Kalemat today, and it just casts such a gorgeous and golden spell. It’s absolutely become one of my very favorite ambers, alongside Mitzah, Ambre Russe, and Ambra Aurea (which I cannot afford, but love anyway).
And oh, Fille en Aiguilles is so incredibly gorgeous, I just love it, and love your descriptions of it!
It always makes me happy to hear your reaction to Chypre Mousse because, to me, it really *is* you in a bottle. It conjures you up in my mind, heart and soul, my elfish, fey friend. 🙂 As for PHI and Fate Woman, I’m sorry too. Fate has gone wonky on a few people’s skins, so you’re not alone in that. When it works, it really works, but when it doesn’t……
As for the rest on the list that we have in common, it makes me smile. But most of all, I always crack up when you mention Ambre Russe: “Rasputin’s hairy armpit,” was it not? LOL. So funny. If only Parfums d’Empires would make that in concentrated form! I plead for a triple strength extrait version! xoxox
Ambre Russe is so weird on me, because my skin usually mutes projection of perfume even though I generally get very good longevity. But Ambre Russe is HUGE on me (but still not dense like Ambra Aurea at all), 7 hours after applying a single spray, people from an alarming distance away are asking me what I’m wearing! I think an extrait would be perfect though, with a great deal more density but hopefully not MORE projection lol.
And I will be thanking you for Chypre Mousse forever…. in fact, I think I shall wear it today. <3
Heh, you have magical skin, my dear. I’m becoming more and more convinced about that. 30+ hours longevity for many fragrances, massive projection….. I envy you so, so much! On me, Ambre Russe is like eau de toilette! I have to struggle to remind myself that it actually is NOT eau de toilette but an eau de parfum. *grin*
I would say that I wish you could borrow my skin, but that might just be strange, and require magical powers I don’t have. I often wonder if it’s because I have a very low body temperature and thus don’t evaporate off perfume at the normal rate, and thus the muted projection as well. Can’t explain the Ambre Russe though, that one’s simply bizarre.
Did I say thank you for this lovely post? I meant to! Thank you for over a year of gorgeous writing that you pour so much of yourself into!
A good number of these are my personal favorites, too! I have the Chypree Mousse on my must try, likely must buy list for 2014. Truly looking forward to what you will present to us in the year ahead!
Thank you, Gretchen. I’m looking forward to 2014 too. 🙂 What are some of your personal favorites on the list? 🙂
Trayee, Alahine, Mohur, Black Afgano, Hedonist, to name a few. I’m wearing Trayee right now and I cannot, cannot stop sniffing myself. I adore it. I absolutely know I’d love the Chypre Mousse, but need to wait before ordering as I just bought a FB of Trayee.
And I agree, I think the Coromandel edges out the Bois des Iles, althois I own that in FB and wish I had the Coromandel. And the Ambre Aurea is wonder in a bottle. Wish I had that instead of my Ambre 114
LOL but Ouch, two scents that you enjoy but rather wish were something else. I think Bois des Iles may be chic-er in some ways, due to its green start, but Coromandel is more indulgent, smooth and rich from the start. It’s not as aloof or haughty in a way, if that makes sense, because it is an oriental from head to toe, start to finish, as opposed to Bois des Iles with its galbanum, chypre-ish greenness.
Have you tried any of the Dior Privées? I think you should definitely try to get a sample of Ambre Nuit given your overall perfume tastes.
HURRAH for a full bottle of Trayee! It’s such a mesmerizing, complex scent, isn’t it?
I didn’t know about some of the others on your list of favorites. Black Afgano? Really? How great!! Have you tried Jubilation in either the men’s or women’s versions? If you like Black Afgano, you may like Jub. XXV. And given the overlap in our tastes, I beg you to try Fille en Aiguilles from Serge Lutens!
My fragrances really run the map. I used to enjoy florals like 24 Faubourg and Carnal Flower, but can only take them in small bits. The Opardu intrigues me, and the Fille en Aiguilles is also on my list. Amuages don’t work well on my skin, but Roja Dove and Guerlain do. I tend to have a love/hate with SL, and need to sample heavily in all the phases before making a decision…too often, I fall in love at hour 1 and then hate it at hour 4.
If you’re not really one for florals, I’d skip Opardu given its subsequent development (I’m not really a fan of that part), and go instead for Puredistance’s M. If you like something like Black Afgano, you won’t find M to be masculine. And I definitely agree that Serge Lutens fragrances can be tricky, requiring a full test, given how they morph. Hopefully, fingers crossed, FeA will fall in the Love camp. 🙂
Also, I really enjoy BdI and 114, but I like the others EVEN MORE, but can’t justify getting them when I have the others.
We can work on your justifications, excuses, and rationalizations….. 😉 After all, they are COMPLETELY different scents, so owning some shouldn’t exclude owning the others. 😉 😀
Hello Dearest Kafka – what a fabulous list! And and and, we do have more likes / loves in common than I originally thought and of course, some were lemmings from you. Of the Top 25, I count among my favorites: Puredistance Opardu, Tauer PHI Une Rose de Kandahar, Arabian Oud Kalemat, Dior Mitzah, Chanel Coromandel, Neela Vermeire Creations Trayee, Serge Lutens Fourreau Noir, De Profundis, Fille en Aiguilles, Profumum Roma Ambra Aurea — 10 out of 25 is not bad, not bad at all.
Surprisingly absent from your list is Chanel Bois des Iles. Would this have made your Top 30?
I did my Henri Bendel round today and will be commenting this weekend in the appropriate threads!
Wishing you and yours the best of the season!
Bois des Iles just missed the cut! I was really torn on a few, but ended up admiring Tauer’s Rose Chyprée and a few others (Jubilation XXV) to decide that they should go on the list. (I really love the start of Jubilation XXV, and like how Black Afgano is a smoky sweet, concentrated version of M7.) As I said, mood and fickleness play a part. lol
If I were to put up the next 5 for the Top 30, it would probably be:
26. Profumum’s Patchouly (or Arso).
27. Serge Lutens’ Chergui.
28. Chanel’s Bois des Iles.
29. Amouage’s Ubar.
30. Amouage’s Jubilation 25.
Or some variation of that order. Perhaps Chergui would trade places with the Profumum ones. I don’t know. Honestly, my head hurts right now from over-perfuming. LOL
I can’t wait to hear about your Bendel tour! More importantly, I want you to go to Osswald to test out Sensual Orchid from LM Parfums! BTW, have you tried Tauer’s Une Rose Chyprée? I keep feeling that we must have talked about it, but I can’t remember what you thought. Forgive me, I’m rather brain dead right now.
A list I practically could have compiled myself, with all my top faves too in it. Now I’m even more convinced we do indeed have noses cast from very similar moulds. 🙂 … Only disagreeing on 2 out of 25 (& not yet sniffed another 3) that’s not a bad similarity rate at all, huh !? Almost ‘scent-twin’ status surely !? 🙂 … One of those 2 I’m now absolutely desperate to sniff – Hard Leather – sounds F’ing outstanding ! Am practically salivating here, even somewhat sweating under the collar just reading your glowing review of it. Pretty convinced I’m going to LUV it just as much too now so can hardly wait to get my hands on an aphrodisiac little sample. (If I can afford even just a sample of it that is !?) 😉 …
– BUT most surprising to me was, a mention of the gorgeous Jubi-XXV & not even a single peep or hissing complaint of it’s your dreaded IsoE ??? How was that even possible ?? How did that slip your radar ? (LOL) 😀
& Best Ho Ho Ho holiday wishes ! 🙂
LOL! “Medicinal pink bandaids” in the Jubilation = ISO E! The Neela Vermeire Ashoka has ISO E Super too, though it smells differently there. PHI has it as well, alas. Ultimately, there is only so much that one can beat a dead horse, especially if one is writing mini-reviews and striving for succinctness. Lol
You can order a sample of the Hard Leather now for 19 Euros from LM Parfums or his Premiere Avenue store. Or you can wait for January (February?) when it hits London. I think you’d love it, esp. given your comment yesterday about dryness in the context of Guaiac wood and the Sehr el Kalemat flanker. Btw, definitely scent twin status!!
Really enjoyed your list, Kafka. Thank you. I agree with you Cuir Mauresque is underestimated. How do you feel about Cuir de Russie ? Love George as well, have some fragrances I look forward to test from your list, with Hard Leather on number one.
Hi Esperanza, welcome to the blog! 🙂 I’m so glad Cuir Mauresque has another fan out there. For a line which is talked about so much, and beloved primarily for its *orientals,* I find it a bit strange that Cuir Mauresque seems to be so overlooked. There are definitely more intense, fierce leathers out there which are widely admired.
With regard to Cuir de Russie, I’m one of the tiny, tiny handful of freaks out there who doesn’t like it. I wanted to, believe me, but my skin really did not comply. On me, Cuir de Russie is MOUNDS of steaming horse manure, all covered with a thick layer of soapy foam. It’s pretty ghastly. Birch tar isn’t something I have a problem with normally, even with leather, and I don’t mind animalic scents at all if done well, but fecal is another matter, especially to that degree. Plus, I really can’t bear aldehydes in excess as my skin amplifies them to pure soap in an unbearable degree. So, Cuir de Russie was a no go for me, though I deeply envy all those who experience an ultra-refined leather. 🙂 How is it on you?
And how is George on you as well? I haven’t encountered many people who have tried it, so I’m always curious about how medicinal the opening might be on different skins.
Thank you for stopping by. I hope you’ll feel free to pop in from time to time, so that I can get to know your perfume tastes better. We few Cuir Mauresque fans should stick together. LOL
Great list! Lots of favorites on there and a few I need to try some day. Also a few I’ve tried and need to revisit. In honor of this list I’ll be wafting an enormous cloud of Mitzah today.
As I am with Mitzah, layered with Vanille 44 🙂
You smell wonderful!
Rock on with the Mitzah! 🙂 I’d love to know how the Sensual Orchid turns out on you in a re-test when you aren’t congested with allergies. And I need to send you some Kalemat, as I think you’d really enjoy that one.
Maybe I’ll give it another try tonight.
Great list. Thank you again for the Oriza introduction via twitter. Outstanding scents. As
I also love quite a few others on that list I will probably keep following your advice 🙂
I’m glad you enjoyed the list, Sabine. 🙂 What are some of your own favorites?
Shanghai Lily, Fourreau Noir, Hasu no Hana by Grossmith, Chypre Palatine, Cuir d’Iris and The SexiestScent on the planet by 4160 Tuesdays have been my favourite discoveries this year. And a few dozens more which I have momentarily forgotten….
I’ve heard some lovely things about 4160 Tuesdays! 🙂 I have only tried 2 of the fragrances your list, but I’ve really liked the 2 Grossmith fragrances that I’ve tried thus far. (All from the original trio.) I’ll try to remember the others, the next time I order samples. 🙂
Love year end lists – music, film, books and now perfume!! Wicked list from you. I need to try a lot of these but love some of the ones you have picked as well, particularly Fourreau Noir and I bought the sampler set for L’Oriza and Chypre Mousse is a very unusual scent – I haven’t smelt anything remotely similar, it’s a beauty. Also got the TC sampler set – Alahine is by far the best from them. Still haven’t tried any Neela V’s yet – but planning to rectify that in the new year and have not yet tried Cuir Mauresque either – got to do that. In fact I don’t have any leathers yet and I’m not totally sure if they’re my cup of tea but I did like Rien when I gave that a sniff. Not quite sure where to start on that front – can you recommend any good starters? Happy Xmas to you and thanks for these wonderful reviews. I’m a bit of a geek and have printed out your list so I can hunt a few things down.
Alahine is, by far, the best from T/C that I’ve tried thus far. Re. Chypre Mousse, I’m glad you’re enjoying it. It’s a tricky scent for some. (In fact, I’ve noticed men seem to struggle with it more than most.)
As for Leathers, if you like Rien, then you already like some of the hardest, most intense kind out there, so everything else may be child’s play. Then again, I don’t know how you feel about animalic notes, as Rien was more tarry and rubbery than actually animalic. I wish you could get a sample of Puredistance M, as much for you as for your BF or husband. You can get some good sized vials from Puredistance itself, and that is definitely a leather I would recommend. The company offers a coffret of all its fragrances, each in a 2 ml vial, for €49, but I wish there were some place close to you from which you could just try the M. The whole line is extremely well-done and refined though. If you’re interested, their e-shop link is: http://www.puredistance.com/shop/?region=eu
For other leathers, a much loved one is Cuir Ottoman from Parfums d’Empire which, to me, is ultra-refined, expensive Italian shoe leather that soon turns to suede with powdery elements. Very fluffy and easy, after the opening stage. It may be one to consider, and you can look up the review if you’re interested. It isn’t my favorite leather, but it’s definitely well done. Puredistance’s M, however, is in a class all by itself, imo.
Thanks so much for the suggestions and the link as well. I will put the Puredistance sample set on my 2014 list. This brand seems to be making a lot of noise. The Parfums D’Empire scent sounds like a good ride – will read your review.
I was wondering why I hadn’t heard much more about the Mohur Extrait – the delay surely explains why the buzz quieted a bit. I’m sure it will speed right back up once it’s released formally. Can’t wait to smell that one!
I think it’s so cool and fitting that Hard Leather ended up being your favorite, especially since you had the opportunity to meet Mr. Mazzone himself. I think loving the perfume and having the opportunity to meet the creative mind behind it is such a special opportunity. I will definitely add it to my to-smell list! 🙂
I honestly don’t think you’d like Hard Leather very much, Kevin, primarily because of the oud which I know isn’t your favorite note. (Though, you’ve come around MUCH more on the issue than before when you hated everything with oud in it unconditionally. lol) As for meeting Laurent Mazzone, that actually didn’t have much to do with Hard Leather being my favorite.
After all, he gave me one upcoming release to try which I hated so much I tried to scrub it off my arm, right in front of him! And I told him it was suitable for a 14 year old girl, en plus! (Yikes, talk about candour to the point of excessiveness, and a total loss of tact! I’m still embarrassed about that.) But yeah, Hard Leather swept me off my feet from the very start. I’m genuinely impressed with the line as a whole, and think it is quite under-appreciated. Hopefully, that will change a little now that they are carried in the US.
But that makes it all the more special, really! Yes, it’s somewhat embarrassing but even with that he still ended up having something you loved (although honestly I think he probably found your candor refreshing)! And I know meeting him wasn’t the impetus for you loving it, but it’s damn cool anyway – I feel like not many people get the chance to say they got to meet the creator of a masterpiece they loved!
I think Hard Leather would be interesting to try for sure. You are definitely right oud is not my favorite – not by a long stretch. But sometimes I find one works for me and I like it, and others I don’t like it much at all. I find my tastes are ever-changing, especially the more I experience, and I also discover nuance in things I’ve tried many times before with the more I try (e.g. Ambre Sultan repulsed me at one time, the last time I tried it I sort of loved it!).
One time (perhaps multiple times) you’ve wrote that testing perfume has sharpened your already sensitive nose. And when I first read that I thought it would be quite the opposite – that all the testing so many different perfumes would sort of make one less olfactorily acute. But I’ve had so many perfumes reveal themselves to me in a different manner upon re-trying and learning more about them that now I totally and completely understand what you meant when you wrote that. Your blog has been a big asset for me – I will never, ever have one one-hundredth of your ability to smell the minute differences/transitions/notes in perfumes, but your reviews have been a great learning tool for me in being able to better understand what I like and dislike about what I smell. Here’s to a Merry Christmas and a bright 2014 filled a whole new slew of amazing fragrances!
LOLOL, let’s hope he found the bluntness refreshing because, otherwise, ouch. The violence with which I was trying to scrub off that other perfume with a napkin in the middle of the Hotel Costes…. I cringe when I think of it. LOL.
Re. olfactory sensitivity, I think it takes time, a lot of focus, and a really good palate for food. You have all of that, minus the amount of long-standing experience that I have had, but that’s merely a question of when one starts. I began super early, thanks to a family that was quite perfume obsessed, and living in a country where people start with perfumery REALLY early! (Seriously, the French as a whole have perfume as a very elementary part of their life, so lots of kids start at an age that would not be normal in, say, the US.) You’re catching up so, so fast, experiencing everything and paying close attention.
My one suggestion to you, my dearest friend, is not to just put on perfume willy-nilly for a quick, easy, brief test. It’s easy to do, and it can give you a general, overall impression that may be a useful starting off point, but I think it’s much better to sit down with a list of notes, and really focus. Don’t let early preconceptions influence you, but just try to sniff through the layers. And take notes. LOTS of notes. If you sniff along side an olfactory list of ingredients, you can hone your nose’s acuity to the individual elements. Then, you can build up the rolodex in your mind, so that you can identify the notes more easily in the future *WITHOUT* a list.
If you just go by passing, overall impressions of a scent from afar, sniffed in passing and without that focus, you will end up having some preconceptions that perhaps aren’t as true to the scent. IE, the situation with Ambre Sultan. In fairness to you, however, I think that it takes increased familiarity and exposure to the thicker, richer, darker elements to really get a taste for them, since things like labdanum, civet, animalic leathers, booziness, etc., won’t be so approachable or friendly as, say, bergamot or rose. LOL. 🙂 It all just takes time and an open mind, though there will always be something that one hates and that no amount of testing/trying will change. 🙂
Happy Holidays, love, and thank you for being a part of this from the beginning!
Thoroughly enjoyed reading your list, Kafka. Some of these are loves of mine, too, and I am not surprised to find three Neela Vermieres here. I came across them through winning a draw on Kafkaesque, and have become so fanatically obsessed with them as to endanger my financial stability. As soon as the holidays are over a bottle of Trayee seems inevitable. It’s my destiny. This one ranks with vintage Opium as the greatest spice-orientals ever. Then there’s Mohur Extrait. I am rather glad that it won’t be released in the immediate future, because I don’t know if I could resist. I smile every time I read about enthusiasm for Chypre-Mousse, because it made me smell exactly like a very large porcini mushroom. Striking, even arresting, but of more culinary than aesthetic interest. Ambra Aurea and Fiore d’Ambra are among my favorite “new” scents, and I sampled both after reading your reviews, so many thanks for these lovely additions to my amber line-up. Happiest of holidays to you and yours.
“A very large porcini mushroom”— HAHAHAHA! Oh, you poor, poor thing. What a shame it went south on you like that. You should post your experience in full in the Chypre Mousse thread, so that you provide a counterbalance, and can offer interested readers the other side of the picture. I always think it is best to have a very balanced, full portrait of something, so that people can decide with full knowledge of the pros and cons. No perfume is going to work for everyone, and skin chemistry makes a huge difference, so if you had a negative experience, feel free to write about it. 🙂
Re. Trayee, I think it’s really interesting that you compared it to vintage Opium in terms of spice-orientals. Luca Turin called Opium the “Spice King” and it is one of the aspects of the scent that sends some people reeling. They are overpowered, overwhelmed, by all the smoke, spices, sandalwood, heaviness, resins, patchouli, etc. A lot of people simply can’t handle all that intensity. And I’ve noted the same sort of reaction to Trayee: where “Force of Nature” is said with an overwhelmed response and often, some intimidation. For a lot of people, Trayee is simply too, too much. But what makes Trayee, Trayee, is precisely why I respond so strongly to it. Just as I do to vintage Opium, which you know is my all-time favorite fragrance.
I think Trayee might perhaps go down as the “Spice Queen” to match Opium’s “Spice King” label. For me, that’s a huge compliment. But then, Trayee is very “me” to begin with, while Ashoka is most certainly not. Anyway, all these musings aside, I’m so glad to find someone else who loves the fragrance as I do. There are many who admire it, but not everyone seems to respond viscerally to it the way you and I do. 🙂
You know what I’d love you to try? Alahine. I think you *need* to try Alahine! BTW, on a total OT (off-topic) side note, how do you feel about honey and some skank?
My dear Kafka, I will order a decant of Alahine pronto! This is rather spooky, because I had just put a decant of it in my StC cart and was trying to decide whether I wanted to order anything else.
Honey and skank? Go oooonnn…
Absolue Pour Le Soir, if you want a lovely honeyed, amber, skanky golden glow! And if you’ve ever wanted a leathered amber, you or your hubs should try M. Lurrrrve M, though I also really love SL’s Cuir Mauresque. Hm, I just realised that you’ve never told me how you feel about leather!
In any event, if you’re looking for stuff to go with your STC order of Alahine (yeahhhh!!!), those would be some of my recommendations, along with Fourreau Noir! Maybe Ambre Nuit too. Oh, definitely Fille en Aiguilles.
Er… I may have gotten a little carried away. Lol. My apologies for the enthusiasm, but when you mentioned StC… 😉
Yes, for us it’s like saying “Squirrel!!!”
Many thanks for the lists, and for introducing me to Chypre Mousse.
I hope your holidays are filled with loveliness, and look forward to
reading your perfumed thoughts in 2014.
Cheryl, thank you for your lovely note. I really hope I can introduce you to something else in 2014 that you love as much as Chypre Mousse. 🙂 I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season, and that 2014 brings you all the very best. Happy holidays, and thank you so much for reading!
Great lists, Kafka, and a great effort to both test them all and explain why these very fragrances are the best in your book. As a result, my list of scents to try is growing steadily, of course.
So here’s *my* top list, Top 3 I need to try RIGHT NOW, if not sooner:
1. LM Hard Leather, obviously 🙂
2. Parfums Retro Grand Cuir
3. Dior Mitzah
Do get some rest and recharge your batteries; we are all waiting for…more. 🙂
You haven’t tried Mitzah???! OMG! Well, that will have to be rectified, and soon. I don’t know if you will like Grand Cuir because of the soapiness which, on some skins, seems to be quite intense. But I do think you’ll like the beginning. I think that Jovoy’s Private Label may be more your thing as a whole.
As for Hard Leather, I can’t wait to see what you think of it, as I firmly believe you’ll love the opening.
Firstly, wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I love your lists and there are definitely some that I will be adding to my must sniff list (Hard Leather for sure!). Thanks for a wonderful year of amazing reviews, you have turned me onto so many great new scents. I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings!
P.S. I was thinking about the issue of Tribute smelling so differently based on the batch. It would be really interesting to know if the bottles sold outside of the Middle East are different than the ones sold here? Maybe Amouage actually changes the formulation to meet IFRA rules when they sell overseas (outside the GCC)? Who knows…..
Thank you, my dear, for your kind words. I’m glad I could find a few things to tempt you. And thank YOU for chance to try many great things that I would not otherwise have access to! I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the opportunity to try the Amouage attars in particular!
As for Tribute’s batch variations and IFRA, I don’t know. I can’t think of anything in Tribute that may involve an IFRA/EU threshold limitation. Incense and rose aren’t really problematic ingredients, and those are the key essence in large part. I think the method of preparation probably plays a greater role. The sad thing is that the Attars are being limited to just Middle Eastern sales from now on. Such a shame. They’re all so, so glorious. 🙁 (BTW, I still haven’t tried the sandalwood one that you so thoughtfully and generously sent me, but I plan to do so at the first chance I get with the schedule that I have in mind for future posts. But thank you again for that!!)
Happy holidays, my dear. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas, even if you’re not in a place whose weather makes it feel very Christmas-y. OT: I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt today, so I commiserate!
Can’t wait to hear what you think of Sandal even if you don’t do a full review. As a true sandalwood snob, I am sure you are a much better judge of the quality than I am. I will definitely bring you more attar samples next time I’m in Texas!
I keep meaning to cover it, but something always pops up. Plus, there is my bloody plan to work my way through all the patchoulis. LOL. But soon, soon, I hope!
Great. Thanks for putting together a list of lemmings for 2013. My wallet continues to become thinner. I really need to get my hands on some Ashoka!!! xoxoxoxo
I want you to try Kalemat!!! I’m going to start putting together a package for 1 or 2 people towards the end of the year, and I’ll make one for you with a few of these, including Kalemat. I need to order a lot of atomizers and vials first. But you’re going on my list, Mr. Hound.
You are so sweet my dear K. Just what I needed to make my day. I’ve been hit hard by some bug and have been feeling horrid for the past two weeks. I’m completely over it!! Your note is like a breath of sunshine! 🙂 xoxoxoxox
How terrible to be sick at this time of year. I hope it isn’t the stomach flu! 🙁 I’ve already started putting together a few things for you, and I’ll send it after Christmas. Hopefully, you will feel better by then.
Mr. Hound, thank you for the joy of your friendship over this last year, and for being you. You are very special to me, my dear. And I look forward to another year of adventures. Now, go eat some chicken soup! You must be well by New Year’s Eve, to ring in the new year with style! 😉 😛
Such a good read!
I just *finished* my list tonight and try to avoid reading these until I’m done with mine. We have a few overlaps, but that’s expected because we have great tastes 😉
🙂 I’m looking forward to reading your list. Merry Christmas, Victoria, and have a lovely new year.
Loved your list dear Kafka, and would love to try some of this perfumes, like the floral oriental Hedonist and the historic Oriza L. Legrand Chypree Musse. Congratulations on this first year and the many more years to come 😀 .
Kind of out of topic,but I´m so in love with that Rami Kaudi dress, it´s gorgeous 😀 .
It’s stunning, isn’t it? Really high-end glam, like something that John Galliano would do.
Thank you, my dear Vicky. I look forward to another year with you. 🙂
Happy holidays to you and all the readers!
I so much enjoyed reading your lists and all the comments. Someone beautifully wrote that it’s a list of lemmings, yes, definitely!!
Favorites of mine which debuted in 2013 were: Trayee, Mohur, Violette Fumée, Dries van Noten – if only it had a better sillage..or any sillage and Isis. My nightmare discovery was “Rien” (released some time ago in 2006 I think) – to my nose it smelled like a very old cleaning mop. But maybe I grow into at least finding it interesting. And I like quite a lot of the Etat Libre range and am excited to finally test “La fin du Monde” in 2014.
Happy holidays to you too, Anka! 🙂 I had to laugh at your comment about Rien. It was not my favorite either, and was painfully difficult to deal with at times. Bondage leather and latex rubber, on my skin. Heh at your “old cleaning mop” version/experience. I’ve heard some lovely things about Isis, so I hope I will get the chance to try that one eventually. And, like you, I’m looking forward to the (perfume version) of The End of the World. I really hope La Fin du Monde does not come with too much hot, buttered popcorn. 😉 lol
Happy holidays to you dear Kafka. It was a pleasure for me to find your sharp and witty writing this year. We do have in common several scents with the exception, perhaps, of Hedonist which did not work on me at all and Coromandel which was, sadly, also a disappointment for me.
I truly need to try LM perfumes!
All the best to you for this upcoming year 😉
Awww, such a shame about Coromandel on your skin. I have a friend on whom it doesn’t work very well either. I think he said something about it being powdery? Either way, I hope we can find a few others in common in the new year. Merry Christmas, and here’s to a great 2014! 🙂
A yummy wonderful list! I am salivating and re-reading it again. Wonderful! I loved Grand Cuir too! But I have an entirely different take on it. That is the marvelous thing about perfume. There is a different story for every nose. I have to say it again, I had so much fun reading this!
I look forward to reading your experience with Grand Cuir. Happy Holidays, Lanier.
Great Choices. I can remember when I first started reading your blog that you were quite enthusiastic about Ormonde Jayne’s Nawab Of Oudh. Did that one slide right down the list ?
In a simple nutshell answer: Yes. 🙂 But making the list was hard as a whole because I have some favorites that just missed making the cut, like a few from Amouage or Chergui, for example. If you take Chergui, it is a scent I own and love, but I think some others — like Jubilation XXV — are more complex, nuanced, interesting, or sophisticated fragrances. It may not work for me because of the longevity issue (and the ISO E Super), but it may be a better fragrance on some levels, even if Chergui is easier, or something I own and love. I respect Jubilation XXV a lot, as I do Absolue Pour Le Soir, even if some other fragrances may be more personal favorites that are not objectively as well done. Still, one has to juggle things and factors. I adored Absolue at the start of the year, but right now, it simply wouldn’t be as high as Cuir Mauresque. That doesn’t mean that — on a more objective, less personal basis — it wouldn’t or shouldn’t be on the list. Black Afgano is a fantastic fragrance which I liked quite a bit, even if some parts like the Norlimbanol made it a bit more difficult for me personally, but it’s well-done and parts of it are deeply fascinating to me.
So, that’s a bit about my reasoning and thinking with a few of these. When you juggle all the different factors — all of which are deeply subjective — and you toss in seasonal fickleness or changes, that means some things miss the cut or rise suddenly. 🙂
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Thank you for the joy and fascination of your reviews, insights, good humor, and directness throughout the year.
Your blog has been the proverbial candle in the window, the gifts under the tree, and the tree itself!
Wishing you and yours the very best of the Holiday Season, and all good things now and always.
Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Math Ùr
(Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!)
Thank you for the Celtic good wishes, my dear, but most of all for your friendship. I hope the new year brings you nothing but joy, peace, laughter, good health, prosperity, and most of all, a change over the sea….. 😉 😀
Thank you for this enticing post. The descriptions were very lovely. I’m tempted but I’m typically THAT girl. You know: the one with the hypoallergenic and fragrance-free lifestyle bc…I’m the one who tests positively off the charts for nearly everything in an allergy skin test. I’m also the asthmatic who runs at the faintest whiff of perfume to avoid triggering an attack (bc it has happened before). I’m the girl who makes it a priority to politely ask coworkers to wear minimal sillage fragrance, and despite them honoring my request, I still have to distance myself to avoid a migraine.
Paradoxically, I have once lived with a fragrance lover and being around her has never bothered me. Perhaps she just refrains from drowning herself in fragrance. Or, perhaps this suggests that some fragrances don’t have a “poison gas” effect on me–I can just enjoy or NOT enjoy them–like a normal person. Which leads me to think…what is it about a fragrance that will or won’t trigger an attack?
Anyway, every now and then, I make it a point to do some “research” on this by trying a sample here and there and reading. This was what led me to reading your wonderful post. I’ve only found 1 fragrance that doesn’t bother me out of the dozens I’ve sniffed and still looking.
First, I’m truly sorry that you’ve experienced what seem to be some pretty painful, difficult, horrible ordeals. Second, I think your question is an excellent one, and I’m very glad you’ve asked.
I truly believe, from the bottom of my heart, that *some* (not all, but *some*) of the people who suffer from bad perfume reactions are going by the scents that are mainstream, commercial, department store fragrances. The simple reason is that these are laden to the brim with synthetics that can trigger really intense reactions. It’s done for cost-benefit, cost of production reasons. Mainstream fragrances are produced with different things in mind, have a different price point agenda, and are cheaply produced. For the companies to maximize profits, they can’t use expensive ingredients.
Niche fragrances can have synthetics too, but the difference in goals, prices, and other factors make it much less likely that they will be filled with aromachemicals as their core focus. It is one reason why I focus on niche brands, and not department store fragrances.
You may not believe me when I tell you this, but it’s true: I have REALLY bad reactions to synthetic fragrances, from shooting pains through my eyes that feel like a hammer is being drilled through, to tightness in my nose, to my throat seizing up and choking up. I can get migraines that are unbearable. Why? The synthetics. Take musk, a key note in a LOT of department store, main stream fragrances. It’s done to create that “White, clean, fresh” aroma, often like fresh laundry. I take one whiff, and I get the most piercing, white-hot pain straight throw my eyeball. Take the ISO E Super that many commercial scents are filled with, especially pure florals. It’s like a jackhammer through my nose, straight to the back of my skull. There is Norlimbanol which can make my throat actually close up or seize up, tighten, feel like someone scraped off the skin, and feel so irritated that for 36 hours, it’s like I have a sore throat.
People who only know perfumes that are in Macy’s or Sephora are more likely to be exposed to fragrances with killer ingredients that will cause a really bad reaction. But they don’t know that there is a whole world out there where a lot of the fragrances are not almost entirely synthetic chemical bombs created in a laboratory by chemists. Instead of roses with bad fruitchouli, laundry white musk, and ISO E Super, the niche houses will create something with more expensive elements. Yes, once in a while, they will use white musk or the terrible ISO E Super, but not all, not consistently across the line. In short, you won’t find as many “poison gas” fragrances. 🙂 Sometimes, you need the help of a blogger or fragrance groups to weed out which niche ones may not work for you, but niche perfumes are simply of higher quality as a general rule and safer for those with sensitivities.
Now, all this applies to a particular group of people, and not to those who truly, TRULY suffer across the board from even the smallest bit of perfume, good quality or not. Some people will have painfully terrible attacks no matter what they try. I don’t know what perfumes you’ve tried and if you have those terrible reactions to even the highest quality perfumes, but if you’ve only tried stuff available at your local Sephora, there may be a reason why they haven’t worked for you. I remember when I went to Macy’s once, and sniffed a few things. I recoiled, and had such a bad reaction, I basically had to leave the store and the mall as a whole. I had a migraine for HOURS. In fact, the more something is “fresh and clean,” the more likely it’s going to leave me utterly pained and suffering. (I’m telling you, that white musk that is in almost every Sephora fragrance is a thing of the devil, up there with the horrifying ISO E Super that most fragrances don’t even list as a note!)
Maybe you’re like me, or maybe you’re like my sister who is allergic to almost everything (from sugar to parabens, etc.) If you’re like her, there is nothing really that you can do, and I truly would never want you to even try. It’s simply not worth it. Please know how much I respect your position as a whole, but, most of all, your open-mindedness and willingness to even try. I really think that’s courageous, given your past reactions. But I do wonder if you’ve tried niche perfumery, because it really may be a very different matter.
One reader who recently experienced the world of niche for the first time wrote to me (I think on a post about the Jovoy perfume store in Paris, if you’re ever interested in looking it up) and talked about her stunned reaction to the perfumes and how it was a WHOLE other world to everything she had experienced up to then. Like, night and day apart. She couldn’t get over the differences. I would like to hope that niche perfumery may offer you some alternatives that you would never find with something like Flowerbomb, Dahlia Noir, Chanel Eau Fraiche, or the like.
Oh my goodness! Thank you for your kind words and the helpful information–I had not expected that–and so prompt too! I merely wanted to show that despite having every reason to recoil, your descriptions are wonderful even to me. 🙂
It is enlightening for me to know that you, as a perfume lover, would have a reaction with mainstream perfumes. Also enlightening that there is a “niche” of perfumes that are significantly different from mainstream. From your description, it sounds like I fall somewhere between you and your sister. I have a hard time walking into Sephora when it’s crowded (with perfume lovers) but I can walk into an herbal store without problems (though I’ve never tried doing so while NOT on antihistamines so who knows). I do have tons of allergies so that makes it likely that my existing allergies will get worse and that I will develop more kinds of allergies. It can be frustrating but nothing life-threatening, thank goodness.
And yes, now that I think about it, all of the fragrances I have tried are available at Sephora–so they’re mainstream. For fragrances that don’t trigger asthma or migraines, I experience a much milder version of your described reaction (a discomfort that starts at the eyes and radiates to the temples, tightening of nose, gagging, etc.). Even the “winner” amongst my testers, Armani Acqua di Gioia, can cause this discomfort.
So why is it a “winner?” Because I forgot to mention that I have another oddity. Many fragrances sour on me as they wear. This one does not sour (which is odd bc there is lemon) and doesn’t trigger my asthma or give me a migraine. It does however, cause that discomfort. I never reach for it for this reason.
I know I’m going through a lot of trouble to do this. Sometimes I think it’s not worth it so I stop for a while. But I love smelling things–when I cook, in nature, when I go shopping (for food, furniture, shoes). And I know I have a few seconds to wash my tester off and open a window if I sense it bothering me. And bc it truly doesn’t bother me AT ALL when I smell Donna Karan Cashmere Mist or Narciso Rodriguez For Her on my old room mate–I smell the lovely woods note on her and think, “So this is what admiring a fragrance is like for other people.” (Oddly enough, I can’t bring myself to test these two on myself even though I should. I made the mistake of sniffing these two in magazines and the memory of THOSE scents causes me to recoil at the idea)
This mystery is a tease for me, because one day, I hope to be able to have something like that for myself–a fragrance I can truly admire. I’m possibly searching in vain. There might not be something that works for me.
But I’d rather not assume something, I’d like to try and find out first. 🙂
Maybe I’ll start here with one of the niche Jovoy perfume? That one of your readers liked? I suppose I’ll have to do some reading and see what jumps out at me 🙂
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Firstly, wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
From your list I owned:
Fille en Aiguilles
Téo Cabanel Alahine
My Kalemat bottel bottle is still in USA waiting for a friend to bring me it to Southamerica
I got samples also: Oriza L. Legrand Chypre Mousse, Viktoria Minya Hedonist and the last LM Parfums Sensual Orchid, Black Oud.
And you were right, the woman in my familiy loves both: Hedonist and Sensual Orchid.
From all of us, best wishes for 2014 and hope to continue sharing with love with your magic words the feelings of fragrances.
I’m so glad the lovely women in your family loved both the Hedonist and the Sensual Orchid. (Yeaahhh!!!) 😉 ) Merry Christmas, Walter, and much affection to you and yours. May your 2014 be a fantastic year!
So… It looks like our tastes are not that different after all: out of your top 10 I really-really like 5! Out of the remaining 5 I haven’t tried 3 yet (so, who knows…) and just 2 (Puredistance M and Serge Lutens Fourreau Noir) do not work for me.
I love reading lists – so thank you 🙂 And I hope for the next year (at least testing – you test not only new releases, right?) will be much better for you. Though it is kind of entertaining to read you angree reviews – but I won’t be selfish 😉
🙂 Let’s not speak too soon about having some overlap, because that almost guarantees that you’ll hate the next perfume I love. 😉 😛 Remind me the next time I send you a package to put Kalemat and Chypre Mousse at the top of the list. I think you’d LOVE Chypre Mousse passionately!
I keep hearing Chypre Mousse again and agaian and I’m not sure I haveenough space for allthe lemmings that keep arriving to my place 😉 I hope at least I won’t have to share my holiday meal with them.
Wonderful list – some Fragrances such as PHI by Tauer that I know and love and others that are on my sample list. I am going to enjoy my sample of Fourreau Noir tomorrow and I expect that a bell jar will be in my future, too. And thanks for the introduction to some other scents that are new to me.
Ooohhh, you must let me know what you think of Fourreau Noir when you get to try it! And welcome to the blog. 🙂
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Hi there, I am surprised that I haven’t run into you sooner, but my life in the US was more hectic, not at all now in Brittany! I love your heterogeneous list, I too am all over the place but like you I love intensity. Can’t wait to try Neela’s scents in Paris, just ordered a sample set including Chypre Mousse (a great deal with free shipping in France!) and I can’t wait to try George which has been on my list for ages but I have been too overstimulated in Paris to get to it! I think you would love Mandy Aftel’s Cuir de Gardenia as I do, give it a sniff. Again, thanks for some great perfume reading and a happy and fragrant 2014 to you!
Hello there, and welcome to the blog. I don’t quite understand the comment about not running into me sooner, but I’m glad to meet you now. It’s almost the new year, so a great time for new beginnings. 🙂
I hope you find a few fragrances that you like, whether from my list or from sampling in general (like the Neela Vermeires). With regard to Mandy After’s Cuir de Gardenia, I’ve heard wonderful things about it and hope to obtain a sample. Happy new year, and a very fragrant 2014 to you too.
Thanks! I just meant that I have been around Perfume blogs and blogging occasionally since it all began, and never ran across you ….. But I am typically pretty random anyway, and not the greatest blog communicator as you can see ….. But of this i am sure: you will love Cuir de Gardenia!
Looking forward to more, all best, Qwendy
I ‘m so happy to have discovered your wonderfull blog, so complete reviews, with so many recalls to other blogs meeting your impressions… many compliments!please write and write…..
I know many of your favorites parfumes, and I agree with most of your reviews…. looking to try Hard Leather…
Maria from Italy
Maria, welcome to the blog. 🙂 Thank you for your very kind words. I really appreciate it, and I look forward to getting to know you and your tastes a bit better.
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