eyeliner on a cat

eyeliner on a cat
beauty, scent & style scrutinized for pleasure

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Top 8 Fragrances of 2013: (or, the year-long rollercoaster of olfactory pleasures)

It's LIST TIME again! Always a treat for us bloggers. This year, as with every other, these fragrances are in no particular order, and if I do say so myself, this is quite an interesting group of perfumes I've got here. My consumption of scents in terms of numbers has not been quite as high as in years past, but these fragrances caught my attention instantly and I knew they would receive my year-end attentions. There are several new brands, and nothing pleases me more to be able to embrace new niche companies and the fantastic talents behind them. Below are links to the lists of my blogging compatriots-- for additional listy-type reading entertainment, please do check out their posts as well!

Olfactoria's Travels
Fragrant Moments
Candy Perfume Boy

Aftelier Cuir de Gardenia
With the simplicity of the finest natural tiare essence along with natural castoreum, I'm not sure a floral fragrance lover could dream a better perfume. Cuir de Gardenia is so rich and uplifting all at once-- it's one of Mandy's most lust-inspiring, maddeningly perfect, expensive-smelling creations yet. Unscrew the cap and it just might whisper stories into your ear that would make you blush. Over the years I've come to find out that it's not my toys or the television or my cat that hypnotizes me and tells me to do bad things, it's perfume. I'm going to love and wear Cuir de Gardenia with pleasure and abandon, and if I wind up in jail, Mandy, I'll need you to bail me out.

Neela Vermeire Creations Ashoka
As many of you know, I'm still completely obsessed with Trayee. However, Neela's newest creation, Ashoka, is a very, very close second. The composition is complex (in true Duchaufour style) but the effect is tempered with pure soul. I find its milky, powdered fig and sandalwood very soothing, and the intense overlay of a cool, otherworldly floral melange led by jasmine sambac (my favorite kind of jasmine) and osmanthus is something akin to icing on the cake. However, comparing this fragrance to food just seems wrong. Whatever this is-- this magic-- can only live in the ether, where you're lucky if you ever get to meet it.

Parfums Retro Grand Cuir
Fledgling brand Parfums Retro's first release Grand Cuir instantly made me feel all sorts of things. It has an incredible effervescence that you don't find in many leather fragrances. It draws you in and won't let go-- not that I would ever want it to. It's a many-faceted diamond that sparkles in its frankness and refusal to blend into the standards that have been set by the industry, critics like myself, or any other person desiring to categorize and simplify it. Grand Cuir is a leather fragrance for optimists, and for pessimists looking for a change of pace. And, I love the Art Deco chevron design on the label, which fits the brand perfectly. Overall, it's a very impressive and interesting first launch for Parfums Retro, and I can't wait for the next one.

Charenton Macerations Christopher Street
Everybody, meet the fragrance I wore most of the summer. I had been eagerly awaiting this new brand's first release, Charenton Macerations Christopher Street. The story is rich with history of the joy, freedom, revelry, individualism, pain, violence and turmoil of a particular area of New York City- The Village. I have two major associations with that neighborhood-- the happy memories of spending time with my mother there on our occasional trips, and the riots of Stonewall in 1969. You can fit thousands of lifetimes and experiences in this bottle of shimmering, combustible, energetic fragrance, and the imagination and artistry that went into making this a perfect fragrance for either gender, for any situation, is rather mind blowing to me. How to explain the Willie Wonka-esque everlasting drunken salty lime note? I don't know, I guess you'd have to ask Ralf Schweiger, who composed it. There is a lot of creative transparency and lore to pore over on the CM website, and it all makes for interesting reading. At the end of the day, though, Christopher Street, in its purposefully modest packaging, is one of the fragrances I reach for the most, and my favorite thing to smell traces of on my clothes.

Rouge Bunny Rouge Embers
UK/Moscow cosmetic brand Rouge Bunny Rouge relies heavily on fantasy. If you look at (or use) their products, you'd know their signature whimsical style and stories. They eschew infantile cutesy-ness for shadowy rabbit-hole oddities, and it really works for them. Their cosmetics are fantastic and their seasonal collections offer much more originality than you'll find with the usual high-end department store suspects-- this is niche beauty on steroids. The looks they create are what I want, so I was not surprised at all when they released a series of fragrances that I found equally impressive. I mean, really impressive. I like all of them, love a few, but am out-of-my-mind obsessed with Embers. It's smoky and woody (which you may have already gathered), but it's loaded with spices and aromatics that mercifully last for days if you let them, and yet it manages to not be cloying. It's a super-sexy swoon-worthy unisex sillage monster and I love it intensely. In the US, it currently can only be ordered through Beautyhabit.com.

Aether Arts Burner Series no. 4 John Frum
Amber Jobin is the perfumer behind Aether Arts, who until fairly recently was under Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's apprenticeship. Some of you might remember that Dawn created a bespoke perfume for me a couple of years ago, Guimauve de Soie, which was a huge thrill for me. Amber created a series of perfumes for Burning Man, and I fell in love with no. 4 John Frum, right here in my living room-- not naked in the desert. But I do know someone who was there, though I've no idea if she wore her clothes or not. Anyway, Burner no. 4 is a super-fresh vetiver and leather concoction that is oil-based, and wears close to the skin. With other, milder notes of tropical flowers and a faint touch of coconut, besides the vetiver of course, the other main ingredient it boasts is kava kava, which in herbal medicine is known to help a number of different ailments, including its function as a sedative, an anesthetic, and a psychoactive drug with its numbers of kavalactones reaching up to fifteen or so. I must admit I have no idea what the plant smells like, and I've never seen it in person in its natural form. But if I'm smelling it in this perfume, it's delightful. I don't know anyone who wouldn't love Burner no. 4, which makes it a must have, and a good one to stash small bottles of for gifts. Amber and Aether Arts are bringing something special to the table-- watch this one, folks.

SOIVOHLE' Carpathian Oud Cologne and Demi Absolute
Yep. Those who know me, know that I might be a little obsessed with Christopher Lee as Dracula from the old Hammer films. When I heard the name of this fragrance, I thought, "the old-school vampire lover in me AND the black metal lover in me are making out right now". I remember years ago when I went bazonkers over Liz Zorn's Meerschaum, her ode to my other favorite fictional character, Sherlock Holmes. This is Meerschaum 2.0, people (only similar in degrees of bazonks I went over them). Carpathian Oud is one of those rare fragrances where I've gotten handed two different versions of it at the same time, so that is a total treat for me. I tried the cologne first, which I declared addictive (between long inhalations). When it came time for the demi-absolute, a new world opened up. It's like watching a Dracula film or reading Stoker's book vs. being right there in the Carpathian Mountains as the sun is setting and you've got no idea where you'll find shelter for the night. Carpathian Oud has many aromatic oddities, a curious balance between acidity and alkalinity, and the distinct tang of metal. Ah, yes. Iron! That's it. The mineral found in human blood. It's earthy, sexy as hell, and can be defined by the word exotic. It's not from here, it's not from there... it's a Liz Zorn creation, and this is a scent that I want to be buried with.

[photo includes DOGSTAR and both Carpathian Oud concentrations]

SOIVOHLE' Dog Star Cologne
A Soivohle/Liz Zorn cologne-concentration fragrance can be deceivingly potent, so that's one (good) thing to consider when thinking about trying Dog Star- but I will warn you, it's already on clearance and being phased out, so snatch some up NOW. Hopefully it will return again one day. Anyway! Dog Star is what you would find on offer at an intergalactic, floating department store for aliens (I know, I watch a lot of Doctor Who). It has a very human, tactile quality to it, but it feels very, very steely and cold in temperature with ozonic muskiness, choya and patchouli. To be perfectly honest, it fascinates the hell out of me. I don't even know who I am when I'm wearing it. And that, is what has earned Dog Star a place on my list. Too strange to live, too beautiful to die.

[disclaimer: I was not compensated for any of my reviews or statements. Samples were provided by the perfumers for my consideration. All photos courtesy of their corresponding brands]


  1. Every time I run into Douglas I have to tell him how much I adore Christopher Street. I'm glad it made your list and it's now making reflect on why it didn't make mine..perhaps a last minute oversight. I also spotted a few others that caught my attention as well. For only eight scents, you put together a great list Carrie. Happy New Year to you.

  2. Wow Carrie, now you’re making me blush! Partly from the honor and eloquence of your words, and partly because you get the sensuous nature of Cuir de Gardenia so well! I appreciate so much your choosing it as a top fragrance, thank you for making 2013 special -- of course the least I can do is post your bail.
    xo Mandy

  3. Ah, Ashoka Ashoka Ashoka :-) How wonderful to see it getting the recognition it deserves.

    Thanks for such an interesting list, Carrie. Some of your choices are quite unknown to me.

  4. Fabulous post, Carrie. You always widen my fragrance horizons.

  5. Gosh Carrie, you write so wonderfully well about one of my favorite subjects, and one I find it very hard to put words so! Since we share a deep and abiding love for both Cuir de Gardenia and Sherlock Holmes, I have a feeling I will find more to love on your list, which I will tote with me on my Feb trip stateside so I can sniff them all! Happy 2014 and keep up the great writing!

  6. A fab list, Carrie! I must try Cuir de Gardenia and Christopher Street now!

  7. Hey Carrie, thanks for sharing your list! I have Embers on my wrist for the moment, but unfortunately this is the one out of the three new fragrances that doesn't work so well with my skin's chemistry! Glad to hear you love it so much though! I prefer Silvan for a smoky and woody scent ;)