Welcome to the annual event where I complain about the incomprehensible number of perfume releases this year, the ubiquity of oud, the flankerization of the market, Guerlain (or Chanel) in general , and the fact that Bertrand Duchaufour and Francis Kurkdjian could use a sabbatical. But a funny thing happened as I was going over my notes, files, and purchases: several of the above found themselves firmly on my Best Perfumes of 2013 list. Go figure.
Part 1: My Top 2013 perfume picks (links go to my reviews where available) in no particular order:
- Phoenicia Perfumes- RealOud (and also Skin Graft). Perfumer David Falsberg channels emotion and life experience into his perfume stories, and the result is soul-stirring.
- Le Labo- Ylang 49 & Lys 41. The two perfumes that made my summer. Gorgeous, sensual, and surprisingly accessible even if you don't live for white flowers.
- Neela Vermeire Creations- Ashoka. The fourth perfume Bertrand Duchaufour created for Neela Vermeire's line is a calming fig-iris-suede affair. Love at first sniff.
- Soivohle- Carpathian Oud. Liz Zorn does vampires. And oud. The husband's favorite perfume of the year.
- Mona di Orio- Eau Absolue A citrus gone bad in the best possible way.
- Serge Lutens- La Fille de Berlin. While I'm not completely sold yet on Lutens' newest exclusive, La Vierge de Fer, the romantic red rose from the export line is my favorite of his three rose perfumes.
- Etat Libre d'Orange- La Fin du Monde. Apparently, the end of the world will come in a storm of butter and iris. I'm fine with that.
- Aftelier- Cuir de Gardenia. Straight out of a film noir, a sensual affair of flowers and leather.
- Sonoma Scent Studio- Cocoa Sandalwood. A very grown up chocolate perfume, creamy and smooth, yet not too sweet.
- Viktoria Minya- Hedonist. A black tie perfume for the grandest occasions.
- Puredistance- Black. A maybe-oud for old money.
- Tauer Perfumes- Noontide Petals. Andy Tauer bottled Art Deco and caught the light in the process.
While I have little to no patience for derivative mall perfumes, some mainstream brands managed to bridge the gap between marketing and perfume-making in a way that truly delighted me:
Tom Ford Sahara Noir is kind of a sequel to last year's Noir (I bought a bottle for my father), and smells more interesting than all the Private Blend releases from this year.
Then there's Balenciaga Rosabotanica, a beautifully-done flanker to the rather bland Florabotanica. It's safe, but also very very pretty, which has to count.
- Did Francis Kurkdjian really need to add more oud to his Maison? The Mood trio (Oud Cashmere, Oud Velvet, and Oud Silk) are so well-crafted that I ended up liking them despite my initial suspicion. And they're different enough from the other ouds (real and pretenders at Bergdorf).
- DSH Perfumes Passport to Paris Collection for the Denver Art Museum was inspired by a very French exhibition (almost worth a trip to Denver). The three perfumes Dawn Spencer Hurwitz created (Passport a Paris, Amouse Bouche, Vers la Violette) are a wonderful homage to classic perfumes as they take you on a journey through time and distance to the Paris of your dreams.
- Charenton Maceration- Christopher Street is a wonderful representation of New York City. Gender-bending, fun, yet political and carrying centuries of history.
Slumberhouse and Scents By Alexis have been around for a couple of years now, but perfumers Josh Lobb and Alexis Karl have made some changes and took their lines to the next level. Both represent artisan work at its best.
Barbara Herman- Scent & Subversion. An excellent book for perfume lovers everywhere. An exploration of perfume history and aesthetics that reminds us of the time before inoffensive office scents.
Twisted Lily in Brooklyn (360 Atlantic Avenue) opened earlier this fall and has made our lives that much sweeter, offering many luxury and indie perfume lines, several of them (Slumberhouse, Providence Perfume Company, Jardins d’Ecrivains, Rouge Bunny Rouge) were previously unavailable anywhere else in NYC.
For more 2013 perfume picks please visit Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, and Perfume Posse.
Women at Perfume Counter, c. 1948, by Dan Weiner via iconsofnewyork.com.