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.
I press soft flesh to bark in the evening’s gold dusk,
to breathe heavy hues of a Satyr’s musk.
My body is swelling with the oak’s root and seed
Our veins and our vines weave together with ease,
And as your chatter dispels at the shake of our leaves,
You set your ear to our chest, to hear the whisper of trees. [….]
Beneath the dark of your eyelids, our damp forest floor rises.
The lilac of lavender soothes dwindling sight.
The essence of our body’s sap stained perfume
Soars above oak beams, drenched in silk, silver light.
I press the soft suede of an apricots sheath to your lips.
The sweetness jars with narcissus’ bitter.
Head tilted, enchanted, you breathe your first breath, with the timber of touch I lead you, bereft
of sight and of sound, but with gilt dew on your skin
each of your pursed pores unravels, and the forest seeps in.
I watch moist emerald moss survive in the sun,
I catch burnished, bronze leaves that fall from each stem.
While dwelled in the canopy, I skim saplings in starlight,
And dust gilded galbanum through the dim of the glen.
From autumn to summer, from winter to spring
The branches and bow are open.
The changing of seasons ticks with the sun.
Each colour prints petal marks to rest at your chest; it is dappled with wolf’s blood and the slick of deer’s tongue.
Roses creep at my ankles, bergamot blooms
Clary sage clouds you with billowing fumes,
and here in my tree I watch you awaken; I do not hide behind trunk or stem.
So dance with the Dryad’s, sip all you have taken
Fall blind, deaf and drunk in the pearl of the glen.