Imagine a passage to India that begins by sailing through a billowing cloud of fragrant spices that capture the dusky, dusty, earthy heart of the country. It’s a trip that makes a long stop to sample the lushness of Indian desserts that have been fused with suede, cream, and spicy patchouli, then wrapped up with tendrils of smoke. The journey ends at sunset when darkness creeps over a warm, golden haze of balsamic resins. It’s a Voyage compliments of Hiram Green, and one that I very much recommend.
My list of favorite fragrances that I’ve tried this year is quite different from yesterday’s list of the best new releases of 2014. The latter centered largely on scents that I thought were good, very elegant or interesting representations of their genre, regardless of whether they were my personal cup of tea, and they were only things that debuted in 2014. Today’s list is purely about what I really enjoyed and does not consider the date in release at all. So, this time around, there are very few qualifications and caveats, and the vast majority of these fragrances are things that I bought for myself, am thinking about buying, or would love to buy were their price not a consideration.
You will notice that a good number of the fragrances are not complex masterpieces at all, but quite simple in nature. One reason for that is that I love cozy, comfort scents, and they are generally not very nuanced or multifaceted to begin with. Plus, mindlessly simple but really well-done fragrances that combine richness with soothing warmth are, in all honesty, a huge relief to me after a long day where I do nothing but analyse every nuance and change in a scent for hours (upon hours) on end.
A few other points. As always, I have to repeat my mantra regarding the subjective, personal nature of reviewing in general, and how a list like this is even doubly so. With regard to the rankings, it’s always an utter nightmare, but the Top Ten chosen here are generally quite firm in order. There is a bit more leeway with the next 10 names, as a tiny handful could go up or down one to two places of where they are at the present time. I’m most undecided about the placement of the last 10 which are the most subject to fluctuations in order. One reason why is because perfumistas are a fickle bunch who can change their mind from one month to the next, and I’m no exception. The other reason is that I’ve gone back and forth on a few scents, switching their places repeatedly until I just gave up in the end. So, for now, this is where things are, for the most part. Finally, you will notice that some of my summary descriptions are verbatim from my list of best, new releases of 2014 or from my mid-2014 best or favorites list. My apologies in advance. Covering almost 60 fragrances in two days is rather an exhausting process, so I hope you will forgive me.
This has been a good year for perfume releases. For all that I sometimes grumble about the generic nature of fragrances put out these days, 2014 actually had a number of scents that really impressed me. Last year, I could not find a full 10 new releases for my list, and refused to simply include things for the sake of round numbers. This year, I have 15 scents that I actually think are good representations of their genre and were done very well, along with a few Honourable Mentions.
As I always emphasize, perfume reviewing is subjective and personal by its very nature, so winnowing fragrances down to some favorites is even more so. My criteria for selection varied. A number of the fragrances were not really for me, personally, for various reasons (a particular note or genre that I struggle with, discreet sillage, or something else), but were chosen nevertheless because something about the particular scent was either interesting, luxurious, evocative, complex and/or, as noted above, an extremely good example of its genre that also happened to be done in a very elegant manner. A handful of perfumes are on the list for the most subjective reason of all: I either bought full bottles for myself, plan to get them, or would love to do so if their price were not a consideration.
Ranking things is an utter nightmare, but the Top Five are firmly placed in accordance with my feelings. The remainder of the scents are ranked within one to three slots, plus or minus, of where they are in my estimation at the present time, though keep in mind that perfumistas are a fickle bunch who can change their mind from one month to the next, and I’m no exception. All of these fragrances were released in 2014. The problem is that some of the names that I would love to have on this list (like SHL 777‘s O Hira and Black Gemstone) technically debuted in very limited fashion in 2013, before being released globally this year. As a result, what I’ve decided to do is to write a separate list of my 30 personal favorites of 2014, things that I’ve covered this year but without regard to their official launch date. I’ll update this post with a link when I do. There is some overlap between the two lists, but not a lot.
Shangri-La, the lost city hidden beyond the Himalayas, has long been the symbol of a mystical paradise and perfect world. The city lies at the heart of Lost Horizons, a famous 1933 novel by James Hilton, and has inspired everyone from President Roosevelt to Hollywood and countless explorers in Tibet. The Nazis wanted to find it, while rock stars wrote songs about it. Countless towns in China claimed to be the location for the tale, and Zhongdian in the Dali Province was recently crowned as the real thing. Now, Shangri-La has inspired a perfumer as well.
This Shangri La is an all-natural, handcrafted eau de parfum that was just released by Hiram Green Perfumes. The perfume house is based in the Netherlands, but was founded by a British gentleman, Hiram Green, who has quite a background with perfumery in general. His maiden effort, Moon Bloom, completely blew me away, and has since become one of my favorite tuberose fragrance. (Given how passionately I love the flower, and how picky I am about tuberose fragrances, that says something.) So, when I heard that Mr. Green was not only coming out with a new fragrance but turning his focus towards the chypre genre, I practically leapt out of my seat. The perfume’s note list only added to my fervour, since they include peach which is an element I love. Plus, in all honesty, the name killed me, because one of my all-time favorite Hollywood classics is Frank Capra’s Lost Horizons.
Shangri-La, the city, was all about scholarly study, finding inner peace, and exploring the beauty in life but Shangri La, the perfume, is quite a lusty affair, in my opinion. There is nothing remote or icy about this chypre, and its leathered, musky sensuality would probably have horrified the 300-year old High Lama of James Hilton’s tale. During my tests, I sometimes had visions of naked bodies, juicy peaches dripping on heated flesh as lovers cavort in oakmoss and jasmine glens, or black leather corsets in a boudoir made of smoked roses. It’s a far cry from a scholarly library in a lamasery in the snowy mountains of Tibet — and, as much as I love Lost Horizons, I think that’s a good thing.