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December 30, 2005

Top 10 Discoveries of the Year

The end of the year inspires one to reflect on the events that took place over the previous twelve months, to analyze and to draw up resolutions. That is, if you are an organized and clearheaded individual, unlike me. My end of the year is usually much less reflective, being filled with holiday planning and travel arrangements. Nevertheless, this year is different, in light of the important decisions I have been contemplating and the numerous projects on my plate. Indeed, this year has been quite special in many respects, and it is a pleasure to think of the various discoveries I have made during the year. Here is my list in an alphabetical order.

1. Aroma-chemicals

Musk, violet, amber… Having always loved to explore the perfume materials and to collect natural essences and aroma-chemicals, this year I had a chance to sample a large variety of synthetics that were not available to me previously as well as to learn more about fragrance chemistry. This experience has been quite eye opening to the complexity of various aroma-chemicals and the interesting accords they can form with natural essences. What in the past I would have simply termed musky, now has much more nuance: powdery softness of Galaxolide, metallic freshness of Habanolide and so on.

2. Caron Masculines:
Pour Un Homme, L’Anarchiste and Le 3ème Homme de Caron

The first time I tried Le 3ème Homme de Caron, I became mesmerized by its unique combination of smoky floral facets with the sweet, balsamic undercurrent. It sparked an interest to explore the other Caron masculines, and what wonderful discoveries they were! None of the quintessentially masculine traits are present in Caron masculine fragrances, and even Pour Un Homme with its lavender sparkle illuminating the ambery sweetness does not strike me as particularly virile. Instead, their classical structures are ornamented with unusual touches, resulting in fascinating, multifaceted compositions.

3. Cocktail Bar in Jean Patou Boutique

Rue Castiglione boutique in Paris is a wonderfully laid back place where one can test fragrances as well as enjoy smelling raw materials at the bar upstairs. Rows of shelves filled with vials of naturals and synthetics are positioned above a bar set with glasses. The glasses, however, have a hole and are turned upside down. Should one wish to sample the glorious jasmin de Grasse or rose de Mai used for making Joy, or perhaps osmanthus absolute that is woven through the top notes of 1000, a strip would be dipped in the chosen absolute and then placed through the hole of the glass.

4. Divine Fragrances

Yvon Mouchel’s perfume house located in Dinard on the northern coast of Brittany produces an interesting range including five fragrances, out of which L'âme Sœur (an opalescent swirl of aldehydes over opulence of ylang ylang and jasmine), L’Homme de Coeur (crisp, chilly iris folded over sparkling spicy and green elements), and L’Homme Sage (warm spiciness of saffron and immortelle cascading onto the ambery and mossy base) are my favourites. Wonderful discovery thanks to the great customer service and sampling policy of Divine.

5. Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower

Tuberose is a flower that I feel a special affinity with and Dominique Ropion’s creations incorporating this note (Givenchy Ysatis, Amarige, Christian Dior Pure Poison) have always appealed to me. His newest fragrance, Carnal Flower, is a beautiful tuberose focused fragrance that is simultaneously green and opulent, radiant and touched by dusky richness. Among my favourite tuberoses (Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle, Caron Tubéreuse, and Robert Piguet Fracas), Carnal Flower rules supreme.

6. Hermès Parfum des Merveilles

Eau des Mervilles is one of my favourite amber fragrances, with the composition evoking the dusky beach beautifully without resorting to the expected marine notes. Parfum des Merveilles is a beautiful (and rather different) take on the theme, with the woody and mossy notes intensified. Its dark chypre veil stays close to the skin, reminding one of driftwood, warm sand and a sienna red sunset.

7. Idole de Lubin

I love Olivia Giacobetti’s creations for their unique rendering of transparency and airiness, a hazy softness that does not compromise the beautiful harmonies and evocative images they paint. Idole de Lubin’s dark richness weaved into an opulent tapestry deviates from the subtle and light character of some of her creations; however, it has a remarkable radiant quality that lights the accords, with the final result being such an interesting architectural construction of woods, leather and caramelized touches that one cannot help but be addicted.

8. Serge Lutens Bornéo 1834

The effervescent golden cloud of patchouli touched by dark powdered chocolate, Bornéo 1834 was the final piece of evidence attesting to my love for patchouli, the sensual and vibrant note that can do wonders for the compositions, even if it only plays a supporting role in the background.

9. Vintage Perfumes Hunt

Reformulation is a word any perfume addict hates, and indeed the mere thought of a fragrance being altered can be rather depressing. Of course, the fact of the matter is that formulas are changed constantly in order to suit modern taste, follow new regulations and to find substitutes for ingredients no longer available. By way of example, smelling Parfums Grès Cabochard today will not give one a true impression of the original, because this fragrance is simply no longer the same, and indeed is quite dramatically altered. Although I have been collecting fragrances for the past 15 years, vintage fragrance hunting has become a particularly fun pursuit this year.

10. S-Perfume 100% Love

Sophia Grojsman is a woman who changed the landscape of perfumery with her trendsetting creations (Jaipur by Boucheron, Eternity by Calvin Klein, Paris by Yves Saint Laurent, and Trésor by Lancôme, to name a few). Among contemporary perfumers, she is a true legend. Her collaboration with Japanese sculptor Sacré Nobi engendered a wonderfully ethereal and sensual composition, 100% Love. Roses dusted with dark chocolate and underscored by the warmth of musk, the fragrance is dream-like and passionate, like a tender kiss.

I wish my readers the best of luck in 2006! I hope that the new year will be filled with wonderful discoveries, fragrance related and otherwise. It is a pleasure to share my thoughts on perfumery with you.

Please share your discoveries of the year, and if you would like to see other Best of 2005 lists, please refer to these blogs:

Graphic by Katie.

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