Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 In Perfume- Delights & Rants

Champagne, party streamers and some glittery outfits-- we're ready to help 2011 leave the building and look at the perfumes that made the year into what it was, for better and worse.

2011 was the year that department store brands almost redeemed themselves, or at least kept me from fully losing my faith in humanity. Elie Saab, Bottega Veneta and Tom Ford Violet Blonde from his signature line smelled really really good. I also enjoyed spending a few hours in Jean Paul Gaultier's masculine-oriented Kokorico.

Of course, not everything is well on the shelves of our department stores. Dior stunned many of us when they renamed the reformulated version of Miss Dior Cherie, their low-brow strawberry juice, as Miss Dior. Robbing the iconic and much-abused original Miss Dior of its name (it's now called Miss Dior Classic). I'd have said "what a shame", but the people at Dior  obviously have none.

The most heartbreaking moment for the perfume community happened early in December. Perfumer Mona di Orio passed away leaving a gaping hole in our hearts. As a fan of her work, the loss and grief are too big for words. Mona was a shining star whose talent and creativity amazed and delighted. 2011 saw Mona di Orio gaining a much deserving recognition and expanding her distribution. The perfumes she launched this year in the Les Nombres d'Or series (Tubereuse, Oud, Vanille and Vetyver) brought Mona new fans and were among the biggest delights of my perfume year.

Andy Tauer kept taking his art to new heights. Zeta was a dream of linden blossom and his Tableau de Parfums venture brought us Miriam. Both are romantic, emotional and breathtakingly beautiful. I wouldn't have expected any less.

Serge Lutens managed to surprise everyone by putting popcorn and buttered toast in his Jeux de Peau then going the opposite direction with some serious floral action. Beyond all the death talk, I felt that De Profundis is an original and interesting perfume. And it smells great.

Technically, L'Artisan Parfumeur Traversee du Bosphore was released in late 2010, but I bought it sometime in December or even in early January, so I'll mention it here. Otherwise I'll have to get cranky about the boring Batacuda that L'Artisan offered us this year, and it isn't even worth the snark.

Among the many discoveries I made this year, two happened while traveling. In Montreal I found an intriguing Canadian brand, MonSillage. Perfumer Isabelle Michaud created a highly-styled yet very personal line. Aviation Club is theoretically a masculine, but the refined leather has delighted me every time I grabbed the bottle from the husband's part of the cabinet. The other discovery happened in Paris. Bois Richeux 1178 is a natural perfume from a special garden outside Paris.

My best vintage find of the year was utterly accidental and jaw-dropping good. A Jacques Fath perfume coffret. And, yes, it includes a small amount of Iris Gris. My hands still shake every time I hold the box. One day I might be able to talk about it in a semi-coherent way.

Annick Goutal (or rather her daughter Camille) deserves a special award for courage. Releasing a bold, full-bodied perfume that's more than tinged with a vintage feel in today's Bieberfied market is a risk. Mon Parfum Cheri, Par Camille is an adventure in iris. I wanted to send both Camille and her perfumer, Isabelle Doyen a thank you note and maybe some flowers.

The most encouraging trend we saw this year was the continuing expansion and success of the smallest independent brands. Apparently, if you make it and it's really really good, they will buy. This brings us to my very personal absolute favorite perfumes of the year. These little luxuries are as fabulous as it gets and I could not pick just one as the top perfume of the year, so you get five. In no particular order:

Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes has pushed herself farther this year. Her 2011 perfumes Haute Claire and Secret Garden are as beautiful as they're approachable. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is responsible to my other toe-curling-good perfume moments of the year: Vert Pour Madame, Pandora and Paradise Lost are each a journey in a bottle; a journey to places modern perfumes rarely go. The latter was part of the Clarimonde Project, a unique idea that  has brought the very best out of its participants. As an observer, I was blown away by the beauty and depth of the discussion. The perfumes that were created as a result were soul-stirring.

Wishing you a wonderful 2012 and eager to hear your discoveries and perfumed joys of the year.

For more about the best and worst of 2011 please visit  Another Perfume Blog,  DSH Notebook , EauMG , Perfume Shrine , Perfume Smellin' ThingsScent Hive  and Smelly Blog .



  1. Thanks for the notice you've taken of the Clarimonde Project, yes indeed the perfumes were over the top hypnotic (one of my favorite perfume-induced states) and the writers did them proud.

  2. You are such a prolific reviewer, I have come to really appreciate your "Best of" lists. Thank you much for this one!

  3. So much common ground, especially the rants; quite natural as we seem to be annoyed by the same things.
    And here's to a good year in perfume indeed for a change. Let's hope 2012 will being in even more worthy additions!

    Many wishes to you and yours!

  4. Lucy, hypnotic is a wonderful description for this. I'm overjoyed to have had several such perfume moments throughout the year and thankful to have had a couple of them with you.

  5. Thank you, Emily. Happy New Year!

  6. Elena, we can be the cranky old muppets muttering perfume rants ;) . Here's to a wonderful 2012.

  7. Such a great overview of the perfume year, and, as I'm going to be in Montreal in the next few days I'm going to try to find Monsillage. Any particular shop I should look into? You're convincing me to expand my perfume boundaries to scents I would perhaps have put aside but it's a good thing otherwise I wouldn't have found a new favorite - Violet Blonde!

  8. *sigh*

    I fell in love with Zeta. Had the mouse hovering over "add to basket". My husband absolutely hates it. DETESTS it. Alas.

    Thank you for the wonderful roundup, and a year of great reviews. So happy I found your site. Happy New Year!

  9. Evelyn, I bought my bottle of Aviation Club at Jamais Assez on 5155, boul. Saint-Laurent. It's a design/conceptish store, so it's fun to browse.
    Thank you for reading and commenting. Wishing you a very happy new year.

  10. Christina, that's very unfortunate. My husband is not always thrilled with my vintage habit, but at least he likes smelling Zeta and other Tauers on me. Any chance you can wear Zeta when he's not around?

  11. You have such a way with words. Thank you for sharing them with us. I especially thank you for introducing me to some very lovely perfumes. My skin chemistry (and nose) does not respond well to the "perfumes" typically sold at Sephora, so I was skeptical of other perfumes. However, once I tried some samples of real perfumes, I became hooked.

  12. Gaia, I suppose I could indulge in Zeta when he's not around. He does travel quite a bit, as do I :) Luckily he loves the Mona di Orio "Jabu" I bought (the minute it was announced as discontinued) and most of her other offerings. Very sad about her passing, just as I was discovering her.

    Thanks again!

  13. I agree with Emily; your round-up and Elena's are especially wonderful because you test so much and have such depth of knowledge about perfume. Thanks for all you put into your site, and for the many hours of reliably good reading it brings. Cheers to 2012!

  14. Gaia,

    Your thoughts on 2011 are insightful, witty and spot on. I always love your year-end roundups.

    I also love how you champion the indie perfumers who deserve the accolades you pay them. 2011 was a terrific year for the indies and I hope 2012 brings even more attention their way.

    Thank you so much for your hard work keeping The Non Blonde a top notch read. It truly is the only blog I religiously visit every day.

    Happy New Year!

  15. Thank you so, so much, Gaia, for your utterly kind words and astounding support for my work. To be listed among your most memorable "Bests" of the year is just such an honor. I have loved reading your blog this year (and for years before) that I can only wish you many more years of fabulous writing, inspiration and more wonderful rants and raves.
    HUGE blessings to you for 2012 and beyond~ oxox, Dawn

  16. Happy New Year and thank you for the tip. It sounds like an interesting store all around so it's on my list to visit. :)

  17. I’m awestruck by this marvelous honor, thank you so much Gaia! I am thoroughly thrilled to have both Secret Garden and Haute Claire in your favorites of 2011! I adore your astute writing and appreciate your encouragement – it helps sustain me!
    xo Mandy

  18. Gaia, once again you prove to be my scent twin - I also loved De Profundis, and of course Vert pour Madame, Pandora and Secret Garden.

    My heart is going pitty-pat at the thought of your Jacques Fath coffret - wow, that must be amazing!


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