|Photo by Leandro Farina|
Ever since reading The Perfume Bible last week and poring over the list of "100 perfumes to try before you die" I've been obsessively making my own lists, arguing with the authors (in my mind), listing and deleting, trying to decide between Onda and Rozy, Bottega Venetta and Elie Saab, L'Eau d'Issey and Escape (the latter is in the "worst ever" category). And you know what? I'm not going there. But I still want to make a list. Not the "100 perfumes every perfumista should try" (Robin of NST already did that), not "100 Best perfumes in the known universe", and not even "100 greatest classics" (Luca Turin already wrote the book).
For once I'm being a minimalist. This is a list of 10 perfume I think everyone, be it a fragonerd or my assorted brothers-in-law, should smell at least once as cultural-olfactory references. Not because Gaia The Non-Blonde likes or hates them (well, maybe), but because I believe they have an important role in the fragrance world, and perfume is just one of those commercial/art/design elements that make up the modern world.
This is my list. I'm curious to know what's on yours.
- Chanel No.5. Once upon a time everyone recognized it at first sniff. Nowadays younger generations are more likely to identify Coco Mademoiselle. Still, few perfumes are as culturally important (or as exquisitely composed).
- Guerlain- Shalimar. It's nearly impossible to choose between the classic Guerlain perfumes. Still, Shalimar is the grandmother of all orientals (even if Emeraude came out earlier) and is the reference point for everything from Musc Ravageur to Le Labo Vanille 44.
- YSL- Opium. The spicy oriental that defined the 1970s. Read "Fear of Flying" while wearing it.
- Serge Lutens- Muscs Kublai Khan. There are many dirty musks out there, but MKK embraces the body like nothing else. Cleanliness, filth, a floral veil and a fruity undertone, it's as unique as it is polarizing.
- Serge Lutens- Iris Silver Mist. I fully admit my bias toward Uncle Serge, so this is the second one from this iconic line. Since we can't have Fath Iris Gris on this list, I've chosen an iris from the other end of the spectrum, yet it showcases all the important characteristics of this note.
- Dior-Eau Sauvage. The ultimate in aromatic-citrus that proves that these notes have more complexity than just "shower fresh". It'll also make you question the validity of most modern citrus perfumes from the last couple of decades. Why did they even bother?
- Robert Piguet Bandit. I'm choosing Bandit over Fracas because there are uncountable big white florals out there, but there's only one Bandit. Gender ambiguous, leather, whips, and bondage. It'll help you understand art and music videos on a deeper level.
- Thierry Mugler- Angel. No matter how much I personally dislike Angel, it's a a landmark in perfumery, the beast who launched a thousand clones, tainted the 90s with its monster rotten chocolate fruit, and probably the reason CB hates perfume.
- Frederic Malle- Le Parfum de Therese. This is the second appearance of perfumer Edmond Roudniska on this list (Eau Sauvage was also his). Therese, composed for the perfumer's wife, is one of the most beautiful perfumes ever created in my opinion. Diorama, Diorella, Diorissimo, and Femme de Rochas all lead to this magnificent achievement.
- Hermes- Terre d'Hermes. It might be almost a cliche in men's fragrance, but this animal-mineral-vegetable perfume is a brilliant example of modern perfumery and the talent of perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena.