There is not a person alive who has been unaffected by the wretchedness of 2020 and the pandemic that has dominated the list of traumas. I won’t even start to talk about the issues of this year because they are many and all hideous. But what about the escape methods for many of us during the best of times: scent? How much is perfumery still a big escape in the midst of one of the worst years in the 21st century?
For perfumistas, reading about fragrances is fun but smelling what you’ve read about is even better. As most of you probably know, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez just published their Perfumes The Guide 2018, the first new version of the book in ten years. The authors sought to examine the changed perfume landscape since the original Guide was released and, consequently, there is a heightened focus on both niche and indie/artisan houses.
I haven’t done a giveaway in years and years, but this seemed like a good occasion to make an exception. One of the criticisms of the book, in some quarters at least, is that too many of the houses are small and unknown. That won’t be the case if you’ve been a regular reader of this blog because I’ve long emphasized niche and indie/artisanal houses over big designer ones. In fact, a good number of the brands that I’ve covered are reviewed in the book.
Welcome to the year in review, a look back at both the best new releases of 2017 and the noteworthy releases from prior years which I tried this year and enjoyed. Before I start, though, let me say first that I’m operating at a bit of a handicap because I took a long sabbatical for the first half of 2017. I spent the next six months after my return trying to catch up on, test, or review all the new fragrances that I had missed during my break as well as the ones released subsequently, but I’m sure I’ve missed a few great ones along the way. It’s not easy to put a dent in the tsunami of 2,300+ fragrances which are released each year even when one is reviewing nonstop, never mind when one takes a break from modern perfumery. Even so, I found a number of fragrances that either I loved immensely, that I thought were good representations of their genre, or that I thought were original and executed extremely well.
Today, I wanted to take a quick look at four attars, Musk Rose, Sicilian Vanilla, Phoenix Amber Oud, and Yeti Ambergris, from the American indie brand, The Rising Phoenix Perfumery. Each one has something appealing or interesting about it. Musk Rose is a chypre-oriental-musk that was chosen as a finalist at the 2016 Art & Olfaction Awards. It layers several complex attar blends over a truly lovely rose bouquet that blew me away, and I’m saying that as someone with well-known rose issues. Sicilian Vanilla is a delectable, perfectly balanced gourmand-oriental centered on beautifully smoked, oak-barreled Bourbon vanilla with tobacco, singed woods, and nuances of black tea and autumn bonfires. It’s bound to be a hit with anyone who ever wanted a rich, long-lasting, heavy version of Aftelier‘s Vanilla Smoke or a good vanilla-tobacco fragrance. Phoenix Amber Oud attar would appeal to fans of Profumum’s cult classic, Ambra Aurea, thanks to its dark, chewy, mixed amber accord infused with smoke and oud. Finally, Yeti Ambergris attar takes vintage Mysore sandalwood and combines it with a famous piece of ambergris that was featured in the book, Floating Gold.