A friend who was combing through my various perfume lists happened upon this post from 2008, Twenty Five Top Perfumes You Can Actually Find. She had a good laugh at the "Actually Find" part. Who wouldn't? Some have been axed (R.I.P Eau de Shalimar) and most have been gutted by reformulations and reconstruction of the entire line (Annick Goutal, Robert Piguet, Miller Harris, L'Artisan). A few of Uncle Serge's best have been put (or put back) into the exclusive bell jars, making them not exactly "hard to find" (because nowadays you can even order them online in the US), but still nearly impossible to sample (and the price markup in the US makes my eyes water every time I think of it). So what are the best perfumes currently on the market?
I stand by my selection of everything you can buy from Serge Lutens (minus the Eaux), as well as the older perfumes by Andy Tauer (though it's a good idea to let the bottle macerate longer. From what my nose tells me, they don't smell as rich right off the shelf). Tom Ford's Black Orchid is still a favorite (the Private Blend on the other hand has gone downhill and rolled into the gutter, in my opinion), as are the elusive but available (in Paris and NYC) JAR perfumes. Vero Profumo is doing as well as ever (Rozy is everything), and I'm willing to consent that you can find something good at Guerlain, even if it's becoming more and more difficult (and infuriating).
Still, among the jaw-dropping number of new brands and new releases there are quite a few perfumes that deserve a place on such a list. Major new players in the field that have appeared since 2008 include the current incarnation of Roja Parfums, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, and Aedes des Venustas store line. I've picked single perfumes and entire brands that I think are worth your time, skin, and nose power, and are most likely here to stay:
Bruno Fazzolari. You knew I was going to mention one of my most favorite American perfumers. With the exception of Room 237, which is a conceptual perfume that give me an anxiety attack upon sniffing (it's meant to do that, actually), I find his work smart, satisfying, and just beautiful all around.
Chanel Misia (from the Les Exclusifs range). A somewhat Guerlainesque Chanel that seems to work for just about everyone, and with a good reason.
This is as good a time as any to remind people that Pierre Guillaume is a brilliant perfumer, and almost everything under his Parfumerie Generale brand is a Good Perfume (I'm not a big fan of his Huitieme Art line, and find Phaedon too uneven). My personal favorites include but are not limited to Felanilla, Ilang Ivohibe, Bois de Copaiba, Musc Maori... I could go on. You know what? All of them.
Aftelier by Mandy Aftel is an all-natural line, but deserves to be regarded just as any other brand. Palimpsest, Haute Claire, and Bergamoss are in the "Soul Stirring" category for me.
Maai from Bogue Profumo by the inimitable Antonio Gardoni. Once upon a time perfumes used to smell like that.
Salome and Anubis by UK-based perfumer Liz Moores are magical.
Lavande Ombre by Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger is an incredibly sexy take on what's considered a very pedestrian note. You'll never look at lavender the same way again.
George by Jardin d'Ecrivains just might be the best modern interpretation of orange blossom.
The late Mona di Orio has left a serious legacy, and the brand she created is now better established than ever. Vetyver and Nuit Noire are the standouts for me.
Masque Milano Tango, Montecristo, and Russian Tea. It was love at first sniff.
Etat Libre d'Orange has moved from being a gimmick to a major player that offers pleasurable high quality perfumes at palatable prices. My top picks are Tom of Finland, Like This, La Fin du Monde, and Rien, but I could probably own more than half their line and be very very happy.
What would you add to the list? The only rule is that these perfumes need to be in production right now.
Image: A 1951 press visual of the Miss Dior bottle. Another one that doesn't smell the way you remember it.