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.
Niral, the new release from Neela Vermeire Créations (hereinafter “Neela Vermeire” or “NVC”), is a play on East and West, India and Europe, and the silken creations which ensued when they met as one with the creation of Tussar Silk. For me, however, Niral is about a very specific, concrete, olfactory interaction: a play on cedar, a play in multiple acts where a variety of other elements — rooty irises, sugared loukhoum/Turkish Delight roses slathered with jam, lipstick violets, sandalwood, spices, creamy magnolia, soft ambrette musk, and even wisps of jasmine green tea — all serve as supporting players in a constantly revolving game of musical chairs.
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.