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.
Io Non Ho Mani Che Mi Accarezzino Il Volto probably wins the award for the longest perfume name of 2017. The words translate to “there are no hands to caress my face” and come from the first lines of a poem written by Father David Maria Turoldo in 1948. The length of the name makes it impractical for me to refer to all nine words repeatedly throughout this review, so I’m going to make my life simpler and just call the fragrance “Io Non Ho Mani.” (In my head, I mentally call it “Yo, No Mani” in a Rocky Balboa voice. “Yo, Adriennnnnnnne, Io No Mani.” It’s terrible; I know I’m a philistine and an uncouth barbarian, but I can’t seem to help it.) Name aside, “Yo, No Mani” turned out to be quite a happy, unexpected surprise. I thought it was a great spicy, woody, tobacco, incense-y, amber oriental.
Close your eyes, and imagine yourself in a field in Provence. Fresh lavender stretches out in an aromatic purple expanse as far as the eye can see. Slashes of white are interspersed throughout, heliotrope whose delicate blooms launch a powerful cascade of vanilla, marzipan, fresh anise, and powdered meringue. Running through the heart of field is a river of vanilla, silky and creamy, coiling its way around the purple and white flowers to create the scent of lavender ice-cream dusted with meringue and anise. The earth below them is made of patchouli, its spiciness complemented by something a little extra that smells of cinnamon, cloves, and chili-pepper. All around, encircling the field like a dark wall, is a forest filled with myrtle, wafting its unique aromas of spicy herbs, fruity sap, herbal flowers, and green woods. Cedar grows there, too, along with green vetiver that first smells mineralized, mossy, and minty, and then, later, smoky and woody.
As another year draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the best of 2015. For me, this was an iffy year for brand new releases because there weren’t a huge number of fragrances that stood out from start to finish. The exceptions to the rule were impressive or lovely but, when I went back over all the fragrances that I covered, I found the vast majority fell woefully short.
One reason stems from the hot new trends of the year. Leather was a major compositional note in 2015 or, to be more precise, the tarry, woody, forest-fire smokiness that purports to recreate the sense of “leather.” Another hot trend seemed to be a deluge of black pepper. Neither one is appealing to me, particularly since their chemical nature was usually so intrusive as to be front-and-center. Yet, that sort of excessive darkness was, in and of itself, the most common stylistic approach, one that was frequently juxtaposed next to shapeless white florals, amorphous spiciness, or some sort of limp “freshness.” The end result was that a lot of new releases smelt far too similar for me to find them distinctive, interesting, or compelling. In addition, many of them lacked the quality to warrant the higher prices that we’ve been seeing across the board.