Friday, December 28, 2012

2012- A Year In Perfume

This isn't a "Best Perfumes Of 2012" list because that's impossible for me to attempt. The database at Basenotes lists 1366 new perfume launches for 2012 and I haven't smelled them all. I can pretty much guarantee that I never will. I have yet to test all the new perfumes I really want to try, and I already spent time, energy, and skin space on more dreck than I care to remember. Speaking of which, those of us who thought last year that there's still some hope for the mainstream market were proven wrong. Department store counters were never a more depressing place.

It's not just the big household names (Chanel, Lancome) that disappointed. Even that category of luxury-pretending to be niche looked dire. Overpriced juice from Tom Ford (the Jardin Noir series) and By Kilian (Asian Tales and In The Garden of Good and Evil) was lacking in both inspiration and respect for the customer. We can tell when we're being served thin regurgitated synthetic crap and when the professional noses working on the formula were silently weeping into their notebooks and asking why they didn't choose a safe career such circus life.

That said, I still found more than enough to love and wear this year. The vast majority comes from small and independent perfumers and lines, where there's still more artistry, vision, and integrity than accounting. Imagine that. This is my very personal list of the perfumes that made my year. As usual, in no particular order (because I'll cry if you try to make me choose):

What were your favorite 2012 discoveries? What am I missing?

Best Wishes for 2013. May it be a good, peaceful, and fragrant one.


  1. That's a nice list of personal favorites Gaia. It's nice to see that our lists intersect at least twice, Kurkdjian's Oud and Arquiste (my fave being Anima Dulcis. I didn't get a chance to sample Mito and see that it made a few lists. I'll have to sniff it out in the New Year. Happy holidays.

  2. Beautiful list. I completely agree that it's impossible to do Best Of perfume or anything list anymore, across all areas of endeavor the production has become so large and varied. I feel lucky and grateful that there are so many beautiful new perfumes around, that I can't even get to them all. Totally agree on the department store perfume end, and sadly even much of the niche end. But I see it like any other area of commercial arts, as in film, publishing, media, design, etc., sometimes the commercially motivated hits it out of the park, though most often it reveals itself to be clueless. Well, that makes more room and opportunity for the beauties and perfumers you have listed, so that's ok.

  3. I haven't even tried most of these yet, sigh! Most of what I bought was from last year, or vintage. I would add the Ann Gerard exploration set, Ys Uzac Pohadka, Maria Candida Gentile Exultat and Volutes. If pressed, I could quite happily pick Seville a l'Aube as my Número Uno. ~~nozknoz

  4. I have had to insert the "B" word into my perfume purchses- Yes, "B" stands for BUDGET!(Booo!)As a result, I have decided not to test any scents that cost an arm and a leg and three teeth. If I cant afford a full bottle, it doesnt get tested.(Double Boo!) I have been limited, but have still been able to purchase FB of Volutes EDT and L'ambre des Merveilles, which I am enjoying tremendously! Happy New Year to all!

  5. Thank you so much Gaia - I am thrilled to be part of you year of perfume, and Sepia is my own favorite! I love your very smart critique of the industry (echoed by Lucy) – I am so grateful to have the space to create my art, and so lucky to have your brilliant expertise and writing!
    xo Mandy

  6. Gaia, Thank you for including my Moss Gown and Divine Noir perfumes on your Year in Review. I'm so pleased you enjoyed them and honored to be included with so many exceptional perfumes.

  7. MFK's Oud is to die for. Instant swoon! I love Mandy's scents, but have yet to try Sepia or her new Rose. I am looking forward to trying them both!

  8. Happy New Year, Gaia!
    Thank you for including Treazon in your 2012 list, and I'm even more honoured to be next to so many perfumers whose work I admire - Laurie Erickson, Charna Ethier, Vero Kern, Mandy Aftel, Andy Tauer, the Sheldrake/Lutens duo and more... Many of the perfumes on this list are still on my list to-try. It's been very challenging both as a perfumer and a blogger to keep up with the new releases in the past few years, but it's only getting worse. The only way around it is make your own parameters of curating your scents during such a packed year. The one that makes most sense being supporting real people - perfumers, distillers and artists - rather than large corporations and their accounting department.

  9. I absolutely agree with you on Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud. I had much success with his Lumiere Noire. He was a pleasure to meet as well.

  10. Hello Gaia, happy new year!

    I love your list. I have made one myself, I finished it today. We both admire Kurkdjian's Oud. It's really good perfume even the market is overloaded with oud based perfumes. I can't wait to recieve my samples of Neela Vermiere since I didn't have the opportunity to try them yet...



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