Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Perfume Top Picks, Hall of Shame, And Some General Kvetching

It's becoming a numbers game. How many of the year's over 1500 new perfume launches can we even get to smell given the 365 days a year, one nose, a finite perfume budget, and only so much skin surface (and patience)?  This year even more than ever my top picks are a very personal list of new and almost new fragrances that stood out among the ones I chose to sniff and test. They've delighted me and brightened this poor excuse of a year. If 2015 was marked for me by mostly buying backups and vintage bottles, this year I've acquired a surprising number of new releases.

Before we get to the good stuff, here are a few things I had to get off my chest (this list would have been longer had I not complained enough back in February 2016):

Hall of Shame
This one belongs to Roja Dove who one-upped Uncle Serge's Hammer & Sickle bottle with a perfume named Oligarch for the Russian market.

General Kvetching
Guerlain standardizing the bottles, discontinuing Dandy (formerly known as Arsen Lupin Dandy), messing and remessing with the classics while releasing La Petite Robe Noire Ma Premiere Robe 2016.
Chanel. I don't mind the watered-down No.5 L'Eau, and I admit that I've longed for denser more concentrated versions of the Les Exclusifs. However, discontinuing the now classic eau de toilette formulations in favor of the muddy new eau de parfum was not what I had in mind.

With that out of the way I can focus on all that's good and brilliant. Here goes:

An older limited release now in wide(r) distribution
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge. It doesn't make up for discontinuing Absolue Pour le Soir, but it's so good I can almost deal.

Mainstream Surprise
And a celebrity one, no less. Sarah Jessica Parker Stash. Could have been easily mistaken for an edgy indie creation.

Most Adorable Bottle
While the juice inside was too light, sheer, and rosy for my personal taste, Grace by Grace Coddington and Comme des Garçons comes in a beautiful cat-shaped bottle that's a far cry from the ones we've seen from Katy Perry.

Beauty and perfume oils have been there since the dawn of the time, but just as the mainstream cosmetics industry seems to have rediscovered them, so did perfumeries. On my shelves the excellent ones from Aftelier (Ancient Resins was created for Leonard Cohen, but there are other great ones in the line) and Providence Perfume Company were joined this year by Chanel No.5 Body Oil, the oil version of SJP Stash, and the drop-dead gorgeous rose oil from Tauer Perfumes.

Super Limited Edition

  • Bruno Fazzolari x Antonio Gardoni Cadavre Exquise. A gourmand mega-beast. Only 99 bottles were made, but Luckyscent still has a few for sale. I don't need a backup but it's tempting.
  • Aeon 001. I bought  this complex animalic vetiver for the Blond's birthday, and I'm glad I did so before all 333 bottles were sold out. 

A New Line to Watch
Edward Bess is known for his fabulous and carefully edited makeup line. His previous attempt to add a perfume to his brand was less than successful, but he's back now with three perfumes that recall the glory days of perfume shopping (and wearing). My favorite is the woody-incesnsy Spanish Veil, but all three are pretty spectacular.

The Rest of the Good Stuff

  • Slumberhouse- New Sibet. A leathery, musky, mossy goat walking on a dirt path. 
  • Aedes de Venustas- Cierge de Lune. Light and dark, warm and cool, a sophisticated way of using vanilla in a decidedly non-gourmand way.
  • Parfumerie Generale- Indian Wood 11.1. A spicy milky sandalwood that showcases Pierre Guillaume's talent for the not-so-edible notes.
  • Rainmaker by En Voyage Perfumes. A lush rain-soaked mossy amber. I should have bought a larger bottle.
  • Eris Perfumes-Ma Bête. Blogger and vintage perfume aficionado Barbara Herman teamed with perfumer Antoine Lie to create this nostalgic animalic perfume and prove that it is, actually possible.
  • DSH Perfumes- Rendezvous is another animalic chypre in the classic tradition. If you loved Papillon's Salome and Bogue's Maai this is the one for you.
For More 2016 Perfume Picks please visit my friends:
Bois de Jasmin * Grain de Musc * Now Smell This * Perfume Posse

What Caught your nose this year? Have you bought it?


  1. This year was mostly backups for me. New stuff, Masques's Romanza and L'Attesa, Arquiste's El and Ella, the new Zadig&Voltaire (creamy vanilla sandalwood), unexpectedly Poison Girl (plus backup!!) which smells more like vintage Hypnotic than current, and backups of Poison, Amarige and Ysatis, Chloe (the Lagerfeld version from the 70's), Coco and Teatro Alla Scala. Happy 2017 and best wishes Gaia!

  2. They discontinued Dandy? Oh my. And here I was planning to buy me a new bottle next week when I was near a Saks. I guess that won't work, unless it turns out that they have a bottle gathering dust in there.

    I guess I have to start haunting the sales sites again...

    1. Yow! Hadn't realised that Arsene Lupin had been discontinued - it's one of my favourites so I had to rush off to Harrods today and managed to get their last bottle (in the sale too) - thanks for the heads up !

    2. Same here, saw this and had a panic ! Fortunately even though all of the store websites have it as out of stock Harrods/Selfridges still had a couple of bottles left so I stocked up in the sale

  3. Wait, did I read correctly that the eau de toilette in No 5 is/has been discontinued?

    Seriously? O_o


    1. I think she meant that the EdT in the just exclusives were discontinued and replaced with EdP versions. That did happen. She didn't say/mean that No. 5 in EdT was discontinued. (I can see how her phrasing might have confused you, though.)

  4. I'm sooo with you on Oligarch & co. - it's disgusting, and I told them so when visiting the counter in London the last time...

  5. Two surprises for me this year were This is her! - for its thrilling fizz, and Bouquet de Trianon, a lovely historic summer scent, originally made for Marie Antoinette and now brought back to life by Bertrand Duchaufour.
    Wild Gardener

  6. Guerlain is really pissing me off. They "discontinue" Oriental Brulant in the already overpriced $260 Elixirs Charnels collection only to reissue it in a red quadrilobe bottle for 650€? Fie on them.

  7. I was distressed to find that almost all of my favoutite perfumes were tested on animals due largely to the many entrants into the chinese market. Even as a perfume addict I have stopped buying everything I ever loved. I have however found Stella McCartneys perfumes. The whole family are vegetarian. Are any of your perfume picks animal friendly?

    1. Most of my picks are from brands that do not sell in China and do not test on animals. Also, the EU has banned all animal testing and North America i about t follow. Hopefully this horrible practice will be a thing of the past.

  8. Andy Tauer's Au Coeur Du Desert makes my list. I didn't expect to like it so much but after buying a bottle (couldn't resist supporting Mr. Tauer for all he's contributed to the quality of my life), I can't stop wearing it. But then, add more amber to anything and I'm a goner. Finally broke down just now and bought Cadavre Exquis with my holiday gift cards. Yay!

    PS: Must echo Kate's comment above about the woeful state of useless animal testing in the fragrance world. Distressed too but, sadly, not yet principled enough not to buy. I do way better on my cosmetics, where I'm almost 100% cruelty-free but my fragrances, alas, haven't yet gotten there.

  9. Happy new year to everyone!
    Gaia, have you tried Guerlain's Neroli Outrenoir?
    That has been my 2016 perfume standout, and I am quite sure you might like (and even love) it!
    Honorable mentions go to Mohur, which I discovered just last year and might have fixed some serious issues I have with rose-centered perfumes, Tom Ford's mainstream Orchid Soleil, and Perris Montecarlo Absolue d'Osmanthe.
    I am also worshipping my new Japanese brushes. I bought them during a business trip to Tokyo and must thank your reviews for tickling my curiosity. Hakuhodo has made my make-up routine even more pleasurable (for some reason, doing my make up is something I really love already - more relaxing and creative than yoga!!!), thanks!

  10. De-lurking to chime in here:

    I only bought a few contemporary perfumes this year:

    Opium EdP, which I actually like in the new formulation. I never smelled the original parfum, and I quite enjoy the new version just fine. I actually think I prefer the EdT version, but I bought the EdP unsniffed, because I tend toward longer lasting perfumes. Might need to buy a FB of the EdT.

    I purchased Jessica Simpson's Fancy Nights, which I only bought out of curiosity, to sniff. It's not for me, in fact, it's as bad as you might think $6 would be.

    I was lucky enough to go to Paris in the summer, and I made the pilgrimage to the Guerlain boutique. I purchased Liu EdP, but I feel like it must be a ghost of itself. I can imagine it 100 years ago. It would have been devastating, I am sure.

    I've spent most of this year hunting down vintage. I have decided that Chanel and Guerlain have lost their teeth. There is no bite to their offerings any more. I have smelled a TON of contemporary frags this year, but other than some Solstice Scents (Scrying Smoke - amazing incense - Fox Croft Fairgrounds, & Wolf Sprit and a few 5ml rollerballs) and the ones listed above, nothing else contemporary made it into my wardrobe.

    I guess that's a lot of modern perfume, but really, compared to the amount of vintage I stocked up on, and am still actively stalking - it is nothing. Nothing I tell you, Nothing!

    My decision is that American perfumers are having their moment in the sun. Western Europe, the UK, and even Oman, it seems, are choked by IFRA, and I'm not finding much of interest to me from the big names. I like big, I like bold, I like longevity, and I like nasty yucky yummy SMELLS. American perfume is not held in a stranglehold.

    That said, I will keep on smellin'!


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