The year in fragrance for 2009: it was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Too many releases, many of them in the category formerly known as "niche" which disappointed - especially from companies that sell fine jewelry as their main product - and were, for the most part, indistinguishable from commercial offerings, and twice the price! Too many ‘trendy’ fragrances using oud, not to mention the never-ending cotton candy sweet fruity florals, forgettable green florals, and fade-away aquatics. And of course the “flanker machine” of the large perfume companies continued churning out forgettable and often horrendous “aromas", spinoffs of very good originals. There was also the unpleasant specter of the IFRA regulations looming, restricting raw materials and narrowing a perfumer’s palette.
And yet, not since 2005, have we tested and sniffed so many great perfumes. How do we define a great perfume? One that will stand the test of time; one that we love. Here are the winners for 2009:
Andy Tauer, the unpretentious Swiss chemist and student of master perfumer Vero Kern, had our attention with his first scent Maroc pour Elle and Luca Turin’s stunning review of what is now the cult scent L’Air du Desert Marocain.
L’Artisan Parfumeur was established by legendary perfumer Jean la Porte in the 1970s. Through the years, they have tapped into the talent of some of the greatest noses of the past three decades, including Olivia Giacobetti, Jean Claude Ellena, Anne Flipo, Michel Almairac and Bertand Duchaufour, now the company’s perfumer in residence. Celebrity fans of the brand include Cher, Claudia Schiffer, Courtney Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Natasha Bedingford, and Eva Longoria.
PERFUMER OF THE YEAR: Bertrand Duchaufour This deeply private man - who is also a traveler, painter and a photographer - continues to shock and awe us with his talent. He created three powerful scents this year: Amaranthine (helping rejuvenate Penhaligon), and Havane Vanilla and Al Oudh for L'Artisan Parfumeur.
BEST DESIGNER FRAGRANCE: Prada L’eau Ambree
The fashion House that Miuccia built is becoming a Maison of fine fragrance, thanks to the nose of Daniela Andrier. Through its multifaceted transparency, L’eau Ambree reinvents the genre of oriental fragrances.
BEST VANILLA: Hermes Hermessence Vanilla Galante
“Another point of view, another glance on vanilla. The word “galante” uses the feminine because in French grammar vanilla is feminine, then galante as to be feminine as well, meaning subtle, delicate.” - Jean Claude Ellena. Available only at Hermes boutiques.
BEST CELEB SCENT: Queen by Queen Latifah
"Strong, Loving, Sexual, Beautiful, Creative," is how she describes her fragrance. "All the sides of who I am...The sexy side, the soft side, the vulnerable side, the sweet side." LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!!!!
BEST ROSE: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Dirty Rose Dirty, natural, and spicy, this rose was dragged through the mud, and still smells sweet. DSHperfumes.com
BEST MEN'S FRAGRANCE: Windsor Creed The brand of royalty is royal again. We think heir apparent Erwin Creed is bringing a new attitude to the brand. CreedBoutique.com
BEST RE-ISSUE: TIE - Calèche Fleurs de Méditerranée by Hermes & Strange Invisible Perfumes’ Heroine
Heroine was reissued by botanical Perfumer Alexandra Balahoutis based on so many long time fans of the begging for its reissue. A “strange” palpable rich floral incense with notes of ginger, tuberose, frangipani, opoponax and Moroccan cedarwood. Angelica Huston, Cate Blanchett, Maria Shriver and Marg Helgenberger are loyal fans of the brand. SIperfumes.com
Best OUD: Soivohle’s Oud Laquer This is the oudiest oud ever created, and will live on long past when the trend has passed and oud is once again known as agarwood. Although natural, this perfume is incredibly complex, unfolding on the skin to reveal veils of orange blossom, Champaca and Iris (orris butter) along with spice notes of Cinnamon and Clove. Note: Liz Zorn has really come into her own this year, with five other magnificent fragrances…”writing lyrical poetry”, “daybreak violin”, “amberene”, “love speaks primeval” and “tobacco and tulle”. Soivohle.com
BEST TUBEROSE: Histoires de Parfums Tubereuse Animale Every perfume tells a story and histoires de parfums is based on famous characters and places. Gerald Ghislain created a drop dead sexy addictive tuberose scent...hire a body guard. Vivre.com
BEST BUZZ: Chanel No.5 With movies like Coco Avant Chanel, book-turned-movie Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, the making of Chanel No. 5 fragrance starring Audrey Tatou & Kaiser Karl, and the longtime lore - it’s the No.1 fragrance in the UK in 2009, and consistently in the top ten almost everywhere for the past decade.
BEST BOTTLE: Kenzo Unidentified Fragrance Object The flashy bottle which was designed by Ron Arad & featured in retrospective exhibits at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and MOMA in New York. And the contents? "A vehicle for fragrance that breaks with traditional industry codes and evokes sensuality when in contact with the skin."
BEST COMBACK: Les Parfums Keiko Mecheri After a couple years hiatus, the perfumery that developed the cult fragrance Loukhoum is back with a vengeance. With four new fragrances - the alluring and feminine Datura Blanche, the honeyed suede of cuir Cordoba, cool and unisex Iris D’Argent, and elegant chypre Iris Poupre - the line is reborn. Luckyscent.com
Since the late 90s, Maria McElroy has been formulating her oriental-meets-occidental fragrances. And when you think of flanker, you typically think of dumbing down of the original, but in this case, the situation is reverse: the original oil was heavier on the skin, but in its lighter format, this musky, deeply sensual amber and tropical, vanilla-esque tonka bean is more dimensional. Parker Posey, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgewick and Eve are all fans of the brand. AromaM.com
BEST INDIE LINE: Parfumerie Generale Founder, chemist and nose Pierre Guillaume creates fragrances for the most discriminating perfumistos; each enigmatic scent is numbered and named. He introduced three new fragrances this year and although we hear that at least a dozen celebrities adore his fragrances, he would not disclose their names, so we won’t either ;)
BEST FIRST DATE FRAGRANCE: Tiare by Ormonde Jayne Using Tiare absolue, one might expect a summery exotic fragrance, but Tiare surprises with modern and classic elegance: a true chypre with a little come hither...just in case. OrmondeJayne.com
WHAT WE WANT TO "WEAR": Ayala Moriel “Purple Dress” Organic perfumer Ayala Sender is an expert in all perfumery and we have a ‘fetish’ for her fragrances. A tribute to Alexander Argov's famous song, “The Purple Dress” is just as romantic but in an edgy offbeat way. Champaca flowers from India are the main theme of this spicy, floral tea-like composition. Courtney Love “loves” the brand. AyalaMoriel.com
BEST FRAGRANCE BLOG: 1000 Fragrances by Octavian Coifan No pretensions or grandiose posturing, just thoughtful and informative - it's everything we want in a blog. An insider pov, as Octavian is an aspiring perfumer and we think he will be a great one. Magnifique.
Cheap doesn’t mean ordinary. Chere Louise, an ode to Louise Brooks, is dark and exotic with its notes of hyacinth, rose, pepper, iris, saffron, patchouli and gaiac wood. B-glowing.com
Bath and Body Works new signature collection is something of a marvel. Using master perfumers, including Dominique Ropion and Harry Fremont, BBW offers HIGHLY wearable, affordable fragrances. We like both PS I love you and Twilight Wood, but since we had to choose, we prefer a walk through a forest that leads to an autumnal orchard.
MICHELYN'S PERSONAL FAVE FRAGRANCE FOR 2009: Mon Parfum by M.Micallef Created by her husband as Ms. Micallef’s scent, this fragrance blossoms on my skin. Lush and honeyed, it's a magnificent fruity floral in a sea of mediocrity, and has become “mon parfum.” First-in-Fragrance.com
- Michelyn Camen, Editor at Large
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