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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Fragrances of 2011

Below you'll find my 10 favorite new fragrances of 2011, in no particular order. This past year held several surprises in the fragrant universe, as well as a few personal honors for me. I was asked to join The Fragrance Foundation's Committee for Indie Fragrances, I was interviewed by Allure magazine for print and online (along with other perfume blogger pals), forged meaningful friendships with kindred spirits, and now I'm ending the year by joining a new, small collaborative blogging group consisting of myself and three other bloggers whom I hold in very high esteem (from Persolaise, Olfactoria's Travels and Fragrant Moments). We are planning on some fun group blogs for 2012, so stay tuned! Today, we are presenting our Best of 2011 lists together, and you will find links to their blogs at the bottom of this post. Year-end "best of" lists are without doubt my favorite to do, and so, without further ado, please read on to discover my creme de la creme fragrances!

Oscar de la Renta Esprit d'Oscar
notes: lemon, bergamot, citron, jasmine, orange flower, tuberose, heliotrope, vetiver, tonka bean, musk

I was enchanted with Esprit d'Oscar from the start, in a way that I never was with the original Oscar. The sparkling optimism combined with the sensuality of this flanker led me to wear it quite a bit over the past year, and I foresee my future fully stocked with it. The similarities between it and Guerlain L'Heure Bleue only urge me to love it even more.

Aftelier Oud Luban
notes: elemi, orange terpenes, blood orange, frankincense CO2, oud, opoponax, choya ral, benzoin, aged patchouli

I must admit that I had a very hard time choosing my favorite of Mandy Aftel's three new releases in 2011, because I love them all. It was Oud Luban solid perfume, however, that spoke to me in my own language. It combines two of my favorite scent elements- oud and incense, it lasts for several hours on the skin and leaves a delicious trail of smokiness everywhere you go.

Amouage Library Collection Opus V
notes: orris absolute, rum, orris concrete, rose, jasmine, agarwood, civet, dry wood accord

Opus V was somewhat of a revelation for me. Never in my life have I experienced a fragrance as overtly animalic as Opus V, and yet it retains a certain refinement at the same time. It's powerful and sexual without being the least bit vulgar. This perfume is responsible for getting me hooked on Amouage. I think the firm is thriving under the creative direction of Christopher Chong, and I look forward to future launches.

Prada Candy
notes: caramel, musks, overdose of benzoin

Prada Candy is one of the surprises of the year that I alluded to. The name and the graphics that go along with the fragrance are wildly misleading. Candy has sweetness, that much is true, but it's an extremely cozy yet streamlined scent. There is an addictive boozy effervescence about it that keeps me coming back for more.

Aroma M Geisha Amber Rouge
notes: Moroccan amber, deep wood resins, cinnamon, clove, star anise

Perfumer Maria McElroy triumphed this year with her first launch in five years, Geisha Amber Rouge. If you love honey with your amber, this intense gem of a fragrance is mandatory. The star anise keeps the blend from being too warm, and it retains an aromatic richness throughout wear, which is actually close to 24 hours. I've not been able to stop yapping about Geisha Amber Rouge since its release, and I don't see an end to that anytime soon. Sorry.

Etat Libre d'Orange Archives 69
notes: mandarin, pink pepper, pimiento leaf, orchid, prune, incense, camphor, benzoin, patchouli, musk

I love ELdO. I don't love every single one of their fragrances, but I love them as a firm, and occasionally one of their releases will knock my socks off. Archives 69 made me giggle the first time I wore it, and in subsequent wearings, the joke wore off and I was left with a very solid, imaginative blend that I wore all summer long. In a market flooded with pink pepper and patchouli, Archives 69 stands out as a display of strength for this house.

Mona di Orio Les Nombres d'Or Vanille
notes: Brazilian orange, Indonesian clove, petitgrain, rum extract, Bourbon vetiver, ylang ylang, Indian sandalwood, gaiac wood, vanilla absolute from Madagascar, amber, tonka bean

2011 saw the life of brilliant perfumer Mona di Orio cut short, and many (including myself) would say in the absolute prime of her creativity. The introduction of Les Nombres d'Or collection indeed heralded the golden age for Mona, and the blogosphere exploded with praise for her work from all across the globe. Vanille is my favorite release from this collection, and it reminds me somewhat of Guerlain Spiriteuse Double Vanille, but more powerful, spicier and with stunning longevity. Longevity is a blessing with perfumes like Les Nombres d'Or Vanille because it's a ride that you never want to end.

Opus Oils Les Bohemes Dapper
notes: violet absolute, orris root, blond tobacco, sandalwood, aged dark patchouli

I am a notorious fangirl of select big houses like Guerlain, but in the end, it's the independent perfumers who torture me the most at year's end. As with Mandy Aftel's fragrances, I had a very hard time choosing just one of Kedra Hart's Les Bohemes perfumes as my favorite. In my heart, though, I always knew it had to be Dapper, a berry-violet and leather concoction. I've never smelled anything like it before, and its charm and uniqueness kept it in high rotation since the very first time I wore it.

Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial
notes: bergamot, orange, green notes, fruity notes, rose jasmine, iris, patchouli, vetiver, vanilla, tonka bean and white musk

As much as I love Guerlain, I've never been too much of a fan of Shalimar, but I was still looking forward to Parfum Initial. My inkling that I would love it turned out to be correct. The gourmand facets of lemon curd, vanilla and puff pastry open the fragrance in a very feminine way, but the undercurrent of patchouli and vetiver allow a masculine edge to emerge. This irresistible allure is what makes this flanker a real success in my eyes.

Le Labo Santal 33
notes: Australian sandalwood, papyrus, cedarwood, cardamom, iris, violet, ambrox, leather accord

Santal 33 was another surprise for me this year. I was not expecting it to be so razor sharp and refreshing, but that's exactly why it's a perfect summer fragrance. Le Labo can always be counted on to alter perceptions and push boundaries, and Santal 33 has become one of my favorites of theirs for its audacity alone. Bold, camphoraceous and full of heart, it's not a fragrance you'll soon forget.

Please visit these fabulous blogs for more Best of 2011 posts:
Fragrant Moments
Olfactoria's Travels

I'd like to wish all of you a Happy New Year, and my hope is that 2012 will be a prosperous and love-filled year for all!


  1. Excellent round-up, Carrie! I'm definitely going to check out Oud Louban and Opus IV. Amber Rouge, too. I'm hesitant about Dapper because my skin hates tobacco, but may give it a go, too. I'm new to Opus Oils but already impressed.
    and Happy New Year

  2. I just told my wife to look into Prada Candy. Aroma M's Amber is also lovely. I'll be adding a bottle of that to my collection for sure.

  3. What a great list!
    I need to finally try Esprit d'Oscar, it sounds so lovely. Can you believe that I still have not seen it in departments stores here. Sigh...

    I like our collaboration very much, thanks for inviting me. :)

  4. Great picks! I would love to try Vanille and Esprit D'Oscar. Prada Candy is divine, this might be the most accessible for me to get first.

  5. Wow! Four overlaps!! People are going to think we conferred before publishing ;-)

    I really enjoyed reading your list. Judging from other people's blogs, it looks like the big winner of the year might be Candy.

  6. I am so with you on Esprit d'Oscar - it is FBW for sure and proving impossible to find as Olfactoria notes, or I would have bought it by now. I also agree on Candy, and some of the others I don't actually know, though I am very keen to try Vanille.

  7. I also really want to try the Vanille, and all of Mona do Orio's perfumes. I have a feeling I am going to love them. I think I would also love Dapper, as I loved the aptly named Dirty Sexy Wilde.

  8. I, too was so suprised by how much I love Prada Candy! I am familiar with Amouage's Opus I and now I need to seek out V. Next on my list is getting samples of Mandy Aftel's collection. I think what I loved most about 2011 fragrances was just discovering this fragrant world in general. I'm a full fledged 'fraghead' nerd and damn proud of it. I recently discovered Sonoma Scent Studio and I'm just enamored!

    The Aroma M oils are also on top of my list - I love how they are so affordable. I need to check out Geisha Noir but Rouge is next on my list.

    I discovered your blog through Joey and Allure magazine and Birgit's Olfactoria's Travel through the Facebook Fragrance Friend group - I learn so much from you ladies. This is a new world for me and it's exciting.

    I guess I'm just exhausted of trying to keep up with all the new Chanel, NARS and MAC cosmetic launches...

    Looking forward to a pleasantly fragrant 2012!

  9. This is quite a list Carrie! Here are several personal loves, and several on my "must try" list!

  10. Thank you so much Carrie - it’s a wonderful thrill to be a favorite of yours! I am so touched by this honor, and overjoyed at our meeting of the minds & hearts over perfume. I feel truly blessed by your very insightful writing!
    xo Mandy

  11. Isn't it ironic how we've all pretty much been griping about sweet gourmand juices before most of us fell for Candy? Only goes to show we should never discount a genre, or a note. What's next, I wonder? Swooning for an aquatic?
    I didn't include Archives 69 in my own list but it's an interesting fragrance and I'm glad it's getting some love. ELO is a line I've decided to re-explore a little more methodically... If only because I'd love to answer "Putain des Palaces" when I'm asked what I'm wearing!

  12. Hi Jen! Thank you so much, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on Oud Luban, Geisha Amber Rouge and Opus V! With Opus Oils Dapper, it doesn't really come across as a tobacco scent at all to me- mostly that berry-violet-leather thing.

  13. Barney- I'd love to hear if your wife likes Prada Candy. I'm already plotting to get my second bottle!

  14. Olfactoria- we do make a pretty great little group, don't we? I'm surprised that Esprit d'Oscar hasn't made it to your neck of the woods yet! I do hope you get to try it soon.

  15. Rola- thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  16. Persolaise- I think you're right about Candy being the big winner this year. I sure didn't see that one coming!

  17. Vanessa- Gosh, maybe I need to send you guys some Esprit d'Oscar! If you'd like me to purchase and send you a bottle, email me!
    eyelineronacat at gmail dot com

  18. Krista- I cannot think of a single Opus Oils perfume I've tried and not (at the very least) liked. That never happens to me!

  19. Lexi- I'm so happy you found my blog and are taking away something from it! Thank you so much for being a reader. :)

  20. Dee- I hope I can read about your thoughts on some of these perfumes soon! (well, the ones you haven't already covered, that is!)

  21. Mandy- you are a constant source of inspiration for me, I'm so happy that we connected!

  22. Denyse- If I ever get caught swooning over an aquatic, please feel free to commit libel against me. Ah, Putain! It's lovely. (that's what he said)

  23. Happy New Year to you too, Carrie! I am looking forward to trying many on your list including Espirit D'Oscar and Mona di Orio Vanille. ALso I HAVE to try Opus Oils..

  24. Dear Lavanya, I am looking forward to reading your thoughts on the scents you want to try!

  25. Congrats on such and exciting 2011 Carrie! Looking forward to another year of EOAC :-)


  26. Thanks so much Trish! Happy New Year!

  27. Great list! What a fantastic year for you. Thanks again for hooking me up with SL Ambre Sultan on Overstock.com. Priceless :)

  28. Thanks Julie! I'm so happy I could help!

  29. You make everything sound so amazing, Carrie! I have to give Prada Candy another chance. All I caught was sweetness and missed the booziness you mentioned.

    I hope 2012 is off to a great start for you! I'm so proud of your accomplishments this past year and honoured to know you. :)

  30. This is exactly what I need! I'm always the worst at picking out the best fragrances for myself. I didn't even know for the longest time what made good nighttime fragrances as opposed to every day scents.

  31. For me the best fragrances is PRADA candy