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Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best of 2012: Fragrance

2012 was a fabulous year for fragrance, and I didn't even get to try half of all the launches that I wanted to. I took great pains to create this list in order for it to reflect the scents that have made the biggest impact on me in various ways this past year. Some have become an indispensable part of my daily life, others so precious that I'll only break them out once in awhile, and a couple that I think are profoundly interesting but that I might not wear much myself. In any case, they are all noteworthy, and they are listed below in no particular order.

Neela Vermeire Trayee
Neela Vermeire Creations kicked off the year in perfume in a very attention-grabbing way with the launch of her initial trio: Trayee, Mohur and Bombay Bling. While all three are beautiful, for my tastes, Trayee is one of the best perfumes I have ever smelled and is in a class of its own. Intended to represent the Vedic era of ancient Indian history, it definitely inspires in me what could definitely be considered spiritual bliss. Green cardamom pods, milky, cinnamon-spiked rice and a ganja accord are just a few of the highlights which add up to the sum of this truly enchanting, wholly unique perfume.

Ramon Monegal Cuirelle
I have worn Cuirelle more than any other perfume in the past year due to its versatility and perfect, genderless beauty. Its bright, positively charged shock of Somalian incense, leather and traditional floral heart notes never fails to lift my spirits. Everyone I know who has tried it has been taken in by its inviting, spiced, cashmere-like warmth. This is one perfume I don't intend to ever go without if I can help it.

Phaedon Grisens
This fragrance brandishes its sandalwood in a very intoxicating way, combining it with incense notes (yes, more incense, and there's more to come). This is a divine perfume that is so wildly attractive, it borders on an addiction for me. If you are a true lover of sandalwood and lament its scarcity as I do, buy Grisens. I'm not certain whether the sandalwood is the result of aromachemicals or not, but I don't care, and you won't either. Trust me.

Maria Candida Gentile Lady Day
The impossible has happened. I've found a gardenia-based perfume that I love. Why has Lady Day broken through a wall where other gardenias have feared to merely approach? It's because of its fresh angle. What Sheldrake did for tuberose with Tuberose Criminelle is what Italian artisan perfumer Maria Candida Gentile has done for gardenia. It's not for those looking for a traditionally pretty floral perfume-- Lady Day's appeal lies in its camphorous growl and its sharp, leafy edge. Maria has taken certain fresh facets of the flower (still firmly planted in the ground) and exaggerated them to stunning effect. A beautiful tribute, just as unique as its namesake, Billie Holiday.

By Kilian Amber Oud
Amber Oud is the most recent addition to Kilian Hennessy's Arabian Nights Collection, and it stands out from the crowd. The words "Amber" and "oud" hardly begin to describe the transcendent nature of this perfume. It begs to be explained in Aramaic or Sanskrit, neither of which I can touch. It reminds me of  a beautiful, dark-haired man or woman of ancient royal lineage, resplendent in earth-toned silks and adorned with a diadem made of burnished gold, pale topaz and sapphires. Not of this world, yet somehow, perfectly representative of it. It's very much worth the hefty price tag, and more. Certainly one of Calice Becker's best compositions of all time.

Aftelier Sepia
Sepia is the perfect combination of all the things I love most about Mandy Aftel's body of work and perfumery style. High quality, substantial natural essences are combined in such a way as to remove the excess weight of them and push forward a decidedly ethereal, finely detailed aesthetic. Sepia was inspired by one of Aftel's obsessions- California ghost towns. As the more volatile (mostly fruity) components of the fragrance change and fade, the bones of the composition is exposed: honeyed resins, dry, dusky  woods and the breath of layer upon layer of warm, earthy delights- such as ambergris and oud. Sepia has claimed its stake as a superstar in Aftelier's already stellar lineup.

JUL ET MAD Stilettos on Lex
New French brand JUL ET MAD came onto the scene with a very refreshing combination of romance and reality, as well as a nicely edited concept for their collection. Their first three fragrances are a chronological and geographical charting of creators Julien and Madalina's real-life love story. Stilettos on Lex represents the initial phase of seduction, and once you experience this masterful tuberose-centered perfume, you'll understand why. It manages an impressive level of sophistication while unabashedly flaunting its sensuality-- just like a great pair of Louboutins. Stilettos is tart on top, coolly floral in the middle and has a smooth, rich base. The raw materials are of excellent quality and are blended with great skill.  My hope is that a light will now shine brightly on the talent of Robertet perfumer Dorothee Piot, who authored all three JUL ET MAD creations.

Thierry Mugler Taste of Fragrance: Alien
Mugler's Limited Edition Taste of Fragrance collection was overall, quite interesting. My favorite of the bunch is Alien. The original Alien doesn't do a whole lot for me, but it's pleasant enough. This iteration, however, feels extraordinary: sweet bitter almond scented poisoned buttercream, cherries macerated in Chartreuse liqueur, fine hides impregnated with violet and orange blossom and fashioned into saddles. Its an awfully strange perfume and stokes the imagination into creating wild narratives-- which is precisely the reason Mugler's fragrances and couture have stood the test of time.

Amouage Opus VI
Well, I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. My odd-numbered Opus fetish has ended. I was starting to think Numerology was behind it all, until VI came along and convinced me that you can't really put a number on what the heart wants, anyway. Opus VI from The Library Collection is a very appealing combination of peppery, anisic sweet warmth and a variety of resins, musks and woods that Amouage fans will recognize. What makes VI special in my eyes is the marriage of its nose-tickling, eyelash-curling jolt of pepper and the cool, sweet marzipan-- it's a real treat to enjoy them simultaneously. This is gold to the fragrance-obsessed.

April Aromatics Calling All Angels
Calling All Angels is the first (and only, thus far) in the Angel series of fragrances created by natural perfumer Tanja Bochnig. Yet another perfume on my list that is based around incense, this one is starkly different from the others. It has the power of evoking the very dry, sweet smoke of fine incense instead of just the materials that comprise the incense. Angels' warm, arid amber qualities inspire the feeling of being protected, and its aromatic leanings are immediately comforting.  If you are a lover of amber and/or incense fragrances, this is a must-try. If you don't care for natural perfumes, try it anyway. This will likely be the one to change your mind.

Please visit the year-end posts of the other members of this blogging group as well (as if you could resist):
Fragrant Moments
Olfactoria's Travels


  1. Thanks for this, Carrie. A thoroughly enjoyable read. I seem to remember that last year our choices overlapped quite a bit... this year, they haven't at all, unless we count the fact that Trayee was on my 2011 list.

    I agree that it's been a pretty good year for fragrance :-)

    1. A few on my list are perfumes I'm not willing to go on without, so yes, I'd say it was definitely a great year for perfume-- for me at least!

  2. Thank you so much Carrie. Beautiful review and descriptions. Very honored to be chosen amongst all the other great perfumers and perfumes. Happy New Year 2013!
    Many Blessings. Tanja

    1. Hi Tanja! I've really been enjoying getting to know your work. Happy New Year to you as well!

  3. Phaedon Grisens and Calling All Angels look very interesting to me, as do all of the others. This is a great list. Trayee is a wonderful perfume and I am putting all the rest on my must try list.
    Happy new year!

    1. Hi Trish! Phaedon surprised me, they have a few really wonderful fragrances. Besides Grisens, I love Rue de Lilas (lilac soliflore) and Noir Marine is great too.

  4. You always come through with great lists Carrie. I see we both got a Ramon Monegal scent in there...Nice! Opus VI was on my short list as well. We definitely have a few things in common. Happy holidays to you.

    1. Hey Barney, thank you! Monegal is now a staple around here. My drive to consume their perfumes is pretty out of control. :)

  5. I am so happy about being here. Thank you so much and Sepia is my own favorite among my perfumes. I am so grateful to be included. I have great respect for your professionalism, splendid aesthetic and beautiful soul. Mandy

    1. Hi Mandy! Thank you so much for your sweet comment. :)

  6. I love Thierry muggler perfumes ... Nice post and comments. Kiss to all here ... Marie