Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 In Perfume: My Top Picks & Wow Moments

How easy it  would have been to make a "Best Of" list for 1970, the year I was born. Basenotes lists 37 perfumes that were released that year, and even if we take into account an incomplete database and the actual number was closer to 50 or even 60, a perfume aficionado had a much better chance smelling almost everything and keeping up with brands, launches, and industry gossip. With around 1700 new perfumes this year alone and a few latecomers from 2013, what are my chances to give you a comprehensive picture of 2014 in perfume? All I can do is look back and pause on moments, events, and scents that made an impression, good or bad. My "wow" moments, if you will.

Last year's baggage

  • Masque Milano burst onto the scene in 2013, but I didn't get my nose into their samples until early 2014. The result is one bottle purchased and another one high on my wishlist, Montecristo and Tango, respectively. Remember the excitement of Serge Lutens in the early years? That's what I felt when discovering them.
  • The perfumer behind Tango, Cécile Zarokian, is also responsible for Nuit Andalouse from Parfums MDCI, the sexiest white floral this side of Fracas.
The Showstoppers
These are the new perfumes that made me so happy to have a nose I felt like a puppy. Seriously, it's easy to lose the big picture sometimes, but there are still a handful of perfumers who create magic and reach into my soul:
The Unexpected Pleasures
  • Serge Lutens- L'Orpheline. I'd have never guessed this was a Lutens/Sheldrake creation. I would have never thought I'd enjoy this ghostly perfume. But I've been going through my bottle at an alarming rate.
  • Dior- Cuir Cannage. I actually really like the Collection Privee from Dior, but their Leather Oud didn't do much for me, so I had low expectations. Here, the nice people of dior return to plush handbags and red lips.
  • Hermes- Bel Ami Vetiver. The only semi-mainstream perfume on my list, I know. This was a horrible year for perfume counters at the department stores, as even a brand like Bottega Veneta managed to produce some truly horrid juice (Knot), not to mention YSL with Black Opium. I'm always suspicious at perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena and his magic tricks, but this time it works beautifully. A gorgeous perfume you can actually buy at Saks. Hallelujah. 

Before I continue to a short list of new(ish) lines that I discovered and loved this year, let's have a look at the head-scratching and not-so-good wow moments:

  • Perfumes that missed the mark: It's a big disappointment when one of your favorite perfumers in the universe tortures a gardenia (Tauer Sotto La Luna: Gardenia). The same goes when for Frederic Malle producing a boring and bland barely-a-perfume (Eau de Magnolia). 
  • Speaking of Frederic Malle (you knew this one was coming), I wasn't really surprised by the sale to Lauder. Anyone who heard/read him speak over the last year or so could have smelled Mr. Malle's industry burnout. I was more surprised at the Le Labo guys doing the same, but whatever. At this point in the game things come, things go, and we all hoard vintage (even if that means 2008 batches of Dans tes Bras).
  • I'm still not over Henri Bendel. The iconic NYC landmark got rid of its magnificent perfume and cosmetics department in favor of selling their own ugly merchandise. 
  • Making a mockery of perfumery and its clients is probably not a sustainable marketing strategy. Please don't pee in your perfume, even if Mr. Pregoni tells you so.
  • The ghost of Diana Vreeland is haunting the hallowed halls of Bergdorf Goodman, throwing stuff around. Which is not even the beginning of what I hope she does in her grandson's house.
Back to positive thinking. 

Lines to Watch
  • Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger has actually been around for several years, and my favorite from them so far, Lavande Ombree was released in 2013. But I only discovered them last summer and was immediately taken with their elegance and beauty. 
  • Orto Parisi. The exact opposite of Au Pays French refinement, Orto Parisi comes from the creator of Nasomatto. Now with more goat.
  • 777 Stephane Humbert Lucas. The aspirational price tags are off-putting, and I wasn't certain that we really needed another French brand that caters to Middle Eastern perfume preferences, but despite my better judgement I've found myself falling in love with these perfumes one by one. My favorites (beside the rob-a-bank O Hira): Soleil de Jeddah, Khol de Bahrein, and Black Gemstone. 
For more lists and reflections please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin, Now Smell This, Perfume Posse, and Grain de Musc.


  1. Another year has passed in which I thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Tango is high on my wish list too. I was profoundly disappointed in the Tauer gardenia, which I had been anticipating for a while, but buried my sorrow (and resentment!) in rediscovering the TF Velvet Gardenia. I worried about the various company sales and heartbreaking upcoming new regulations, and gave more support and business to American indie lines that aren't subject to them. And when I get overly concerned, I remind myself that I have stockpiled enough vintage Opium to last a very long time.

  2. Masque Milano has given me two new fragrances to enjoy, Tango & Russian Tea. I add my feeling of what the hey? when smelling Tauer's Gardenia though I have to disagree about Malle's Magnolia. I think I sampled every new magnolia for the last feww years and shouted Eureka! when first sniffing this one. Probably the one sure fbs for me this year. Thank you for a year of worthy reading about fragrance!

  3. Not really sure what is wrong with catering to Middle Eastern perfume preferences, surely we have plenty of Western brands that already cater to Western clientele.

  4. Oh Gaia, as much as I love your 'best of' picks, I simply *adore* your 'not-so-good wow' picks. Not only am I nodding along in agreement, but the Diana Vreeland grandson snark has had me laughing aloud without pause for the last 10 minutes. Best wishes for a wonderful new year! - LisaInDenver

  5. Thank you for highlighting Alexis Karl's Scent of Longing. I looked into it based on your review, and love the perfume. It was also great to exchange poems with Alexis. nozknoz

  6. Hello lovely,
    Reading all the best of lists this year is interesting. So many fragrances have made it to multiple lists but being put it wildly divergent sections of adore and hate. Thank goodness we all have such different wants and needs in fragrance.
    Totally with you on L'Orpheline and Palimpsest.
    Excellent list,
    Portia xx

  7. Really interested in trying the Aroma M Camellia! Have you tried both EDP and the perfume oil? Am debating which one to buy.


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