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December 28, 2010

Best of 2010 : Perfume Launches & Fragrance Reflections

I always feel a certain anxiety about the New Year’s Eve celebration. My family likes to say that how you meet the new year is how you will spend the rest of it. Last year, on New Year’s Eve, as the clock was striking midnight, I was moving hotels in India. I am not superstitious, but I have to admit that 2010 was a year of transitions. In retrospect, I would not have changed a thing about either the laidback way in which we had our most streamlined New Year’s Eve celebration to date—toasting each other over mineral water while sitting on suitcases—nor about any of the transitions I have undertaken since then. They have all taken me to something new, unexpected and exciting. As I sought balance between pleasure and work, smelling and writing, discovering old favorites and exploring new things, I also found lots of support and inspiration in my fellow fragrance lovers, colleagues, bloggers, readers, friends and family. So it is to all of you that I want to say thank you for making 2010 a very memorable and special year for me!

So, without further ado, my 2010 highlights!

Best Niche Launches

Atelier Cologne Bois Blonds

I love the entire Atelier Cologne line, from the longlasting effervescence of Orange Sanguine to the rich intensity of Grand Neroli. Bois Blonds caught my attention because of its use of frankincense to add a bright and fizzy top note. This shimmering cologne nevertheless possesses an appealing richness of woods, amber and jasmine.

Nasomatto Nuda

A classical jasmine composition, Nuda nevertheless hides a few surprises under its green apricot and white petals top accord. A rich animalic note lends the composition quite a sensual aura. Unlike many classical jasmines, Nuda is rendered transparent and gauzy, and yet it retains the beautiful complexity of natural jasmine.

Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady

Portrait of a Lady is a dark, ravishing rose-patchouli duo. The rose is sweet, honeyed and bright; the patchouli is dark, earthy and smoldering. Their marriage is a striking pairing that manages to suggest both the exotic mystery of Paul Poiret’s La Belle Époque and the high-voltage glamour of the 1980s.

Guerlain Arsène Lupin Dandy

Arsène Lupin Dandy explores the classical woods theme, which it liberally ornaments with the spicy freshness of pepper and cardamom. A beautiful violet leaf note underpins the composition, lending it an effect that is both earthy and verdant. A smooth leather note wraps this elegant composition, that while designed as a masculine fragrance would nevertheless appeal to women who love woods and green chypres.

After L’Eau and Nuit de Cellophane, Boxeuses seems to say to me, “All is well in the world. Serge Lutens is back to exploring novel niche combinations.” Boxeuses is a dark leather, with plum and licorice notes. It is an elegant interpretation of a smoky, resinous Russian leather, but with a mischievous twist of musky-animalic notes.

Forget about odalisques gorging themselves on rahat loukoum and hookah smoking mustached men. Traversée du Bosphore is a complex fragrance in the French grand parfum tradition. It explores the classical rose-violet theme, yet it sets it against a modern dry woody accord of remarkable radiance. The austere, almost mineral dryness, contrasts beautifully with the opulent, floral richness, resulting in a composition of strong character and interesting signature.

An airy vetiver, Vetyverio seems to fill yet another chapter in the vetiver story that has had plenty of interesting interpretations, from the crisp and airy Guerlain Vétiver to the dark and moody Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire. Vetyverio is a very appealing woody composition with a juicy mandarin top and a fresh green geranium-jasmine heart.

Best Prestige (Mainstream) Launches

Although Womanity ranks as the worst perfume name of any launch this year (or maybe I simply do not understand the marketing behind it), the fragrance itself is memorable and well crafted. It is an intriguing juxtaposition of dark woods and juicy fig flesh. A salty, marine facet lends it a sensual quality reminiscent of the smell of warm skin after the beach.

Love, Chloé

I love the refined character of Love, Chloé, which is a pepper accented composition of orange and iris set against a soft accord reminiscent of powdered skin. A fresh floral heart lends the composition an appealing vibrancy, while a musky warmth in the base gives Love, Chloé a subtle sensuality. It is a well crafted, high quality fragrance that definitely lives up to its promise of effortless elegance.

Marc Jacobs Bang

Marc Jacobs Men is a very elegant composition of green fig set against a complex woody-musky base. The newest masculine launch, Bang, definitely includes plenty of elegant touches, but above all, it is bold and edgy. The dramatic peppery top note leads to a rich, smoky core of wood. The woody accord, around which Bang is built, reminds me of a well polished diamond. Each facet reveals a new impression—the earthiness of patchouli, the violet darkness of cedarwood, the leathery dryness of moss. On the whole though, it is so well-blended that each component is perfectly balanced. This could almost be launched under the Comme des Garçons label.

Balenciaga Paris

I confess that the first time I tried Balenciaga Paris, I found it bland. Of course, compared to classical mossy fragrances like Miss Dior and Jean Patou Cocktail, it appears quite tame. Yet, I have grown to admire it as an impeccably elegant modern chypre. The violet, from green leaf to soft, creamy flowers, provides a core for the composition. Against this rich violet accord, the touches of pepper, patchouli, vetiver and Veramoss (oakmoss aromamaterial) sparkle like jewels. Above all, Balenciaga Paris possesses a rare quality missing in so many new launches, mainstream or niche—character and a memorable signature.

Untitled Martin Margiela*

It is exciting to see more launches in the woods category, especially in the feminine division. With Estée Lauder Sensuous setting the trend, more interesting woods launches have appeared over the past few years. Untitled Martin Margiela is the most recent of these. It is a green woods composition, with fresh nuances of galbanum and bitter orange. While the dark verdancy of galbanum provides a backdrop for the entire composition, jasmine gives it a complex floral sweetness. The modern austerity of incense and cedarwood serves as a perfect counterpoint to the intricate fresh, green accord. A fantastic debut launch for an avant-garde fashion house.
*I suppose that it could called niche, but the launch scale defines it as prestige.

What were you favorite 2010 discoveries?

Highlights in sensory discoveries outside of the perfume bottle :: Best of 2010: Flavors, Scents, Food, Travel

To see other Best of 2010  lists, please visit: Grain de Musc :: Now Smell This :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume Smellin’ Things.

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