Friday, January 27, 2012

Our Winter 2012 Top Favorites (and more): A Joint Blogging Project

This is my first winter in the southeast and goodness gracious it’s a mild one.  Not a flake of snow, hardly any rain, and most days are in the 60s.  I noticed a magnolia tree in my neighbor’s yard starting to bloom a few days ago.  I know the weather isn’t usually so warm but after the record breaking hot & humid summer we deserve a nice winter.

Even though true winter temperatures elude me, I have pulled out all my usual faves the past few months anyway (hey, it’s in the 50s & 60s which sometimes feels sort of chilly lately!).  My winter scents are all about spices, woods, patchouli, amber and near-gourmands.  A big favorite the past month has been Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant, which I only recently fell in love with after years of not getting it.  I certainly get  Jungle L’Elephant now and now that we're BFFs I'll never be without it.  After a post from The Non Blonde about a wonderful tea company called Harney & Sons, I have been pairing Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant with a seriously good tea, Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice.  This tea is life-changing.  I've actually mailed tea bags to various friends and family so they could experience the deliciousness of Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice.

I’m in a book club now so we vote each month on what we’ll read.  This month its Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and I’m still slogging through this hefty volume.  It’s OK.  The best book I’ve read in the past few months was The Sister’s Brothers by Patrick deWitt.  I have a Kindle now so it seems I can’t get through books fast enough.  There are so many I want to read and I can acquire them so quickly.  I do sometimes miss the feel and experience of real books, though.  So I pepper my book buying between purchasing real books and Kindle books.  
The after-Christmas sale at Bath & Body Works saw me buying a year’s supply of my favorite wallflowers in Sensual Amber.  This scent is really nice for the bedroom.  It smells like amber should; not foodie but almost an ambergris-amber.  I’m also still enjoying B&BWs Fresh Balsam candles (I should be still be enjoying them since I bought 12).  Fresh Balsam is an invigorating scent with excellent throw.  It does smell like Christmas but it also simply smells of a pine forest which works for me all through the winter months.

Previously a fan of Chobani and Siggi’s greek yogurt I’ve now converted to Trader Joe’s Vanilla Bean Nonfat Greek yogurt.  There are actual flecks of vanilla bean in this stuff.  It’s delicious.

Other fragrances I’ve been enjoying the past month or so are two entries from Parfums Divine: L’Inspiratrice and L’ame Soeur.  L’ame Soeur has recently been reformulated.  This latest, updated version of L’ame Soeur is less aldehydic than the original.  At first I wasn’t sure I liked it as much but now I’m gaga for it.  It’s rosier, brighter and more floral.  It’s still aldehydic and very close to the original but you can sniff the differences side-by-side.

I’ve also been enjoy the original FlowerbyKenzo.  I think folks about 10 years younger than me have always known about Kenzo Flower.  Somehow I wasn’t aware of it when it launched, or I vaguely remember trying it and not smelling much.  Lately I find it to be an easy-going powdery violet floral.  I’m surprised it doesn’t come up more often when people are looking for a nice violet entry.   It’s definitely not all about violet, but the overall feel is parma violets to me.
 For fans of SNL-type comedy you must watch Portlandia.  

Unlike last year, I haven’t enjoyed most of the films nominated for an Oscar.  I saw The Descendants last week and thought it was good; some great characters but nothing amazing.  The IMDb summary could be: rich white folks living in paradise still have some issues.

I’m going through a sun-dried tomato phase.  I buy the little dried bags at Trader Joe’s (no oil, just a bag of loose sun-dried tomatoes) and add them to everything.  You’d be surprised how sweet tomatoes can be.

Two fragrances I know I like but haven’t fallen head over heels for yet:  Mary Greenwell’s Plum and Tommi Sooni Tarantella.  Both are wonderfully classic and well-crafted offerings in a sea of mediocrity and while I like wearing them I’m just not getting verklempt about them (yet).  I would still highly recommend both to those who enjoy floral diet-chypres (Plum) and spicy, green chypres (Tarantella). 

Other favorite fragrances I've been wearing (and I feel like a broken record with these!) are Teo Cabanel Alahine, Canturi eau de parfum, Love, Chloe Eau Intense, Jo Malone Vanille & Anise and M. Micallef Gaiac.

Special Thanks to Elena of PerfumeShrine for organizing this joint project!  
Other participating blogs are as follows:

So, what's new with you dear reader?  What are you enjoying in perfume and many other arenas this winter? Do tell..... :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Parfums Divine L'Inspiratrice: Perfume Review

I’ve noticed recently that several of my all-time favorite perfumes fall into a similar category as Parfums Divine L’Inspiratrice.  This category consists of fragrances which have a classical oriental structure but might initially seem boring, ordinary and definitely not groundbreaking.  Let me digress for a moment to say that I am so tired of the “groundbreaking” label. Groundbreaking is used in a manner that suggests anything which isn’t groundbreaking is derivative and not especially good.  I don’t care whether a fragrance is groundbreaking or not, I only care whether it smells amazing.  In fact, only about 2-3 of my very favorite fragrances would fit the “groundbreaking” label.

In any event, this seems a sort of defensive way to begin a review of Divine L’Inspiratrice, and perhaps I shouldn’t have begun in this manner because there are no defenses necessary in admitting just how much I love this gem from Parfums Divine.

L’Inspiratrice was created by Richard Ibanez and introduced six years ago in 2006.  A quick categorization of L’Inspiratrice would be that it’s a rose-patchouli-aldehyde scent but that would be almost a useless description of it.  When I think of rose-patchouli fragrances I imagine L’Artisan Voleur de Rose, Gucci L’Arte di Gucci, Teo Cabanel Oha, Frederic Malle Une Rose, Bond No. 9 West Side and so many others.  L’Inspiratrice isn’t nearly as rosy nor as earthy as most of the well-known perfumes in the rose-patchouli category.    Rose IS present and patchouli IS also present, especially at the start, but these two elements are not the only or most prominent members of the cast.  The most crucial part of understanding and enjoying L’Inspiratrice is to really wear it.   Spray L’Inspiratrice liberally on yourself, give it a good sniff, then come back and sniff it again in an hour.  The dry down of L’Inspiratrice is heaven.  

Angela over at Now Smell This made an interesting observation about Divine L’Inspiratrice.  Angela suggests that there really isn’t a base to L’Inspiratrice.  It’s as if the fragrance is exceedingly diffuse, hanging about me in a veil, without a grounding base.  This is something I love about the way L’Inspiratrice wears, it is the absolute definition of a veil-like scent; it’s all airy sillage, not dense, but wonderfully diffuse.  Not having a hefty base doesn’t mean it won’t stick around.  In fact, L’Inspiratrice sticks around at least 6 hours on me and the dry down is the best part.

L’Inspiratrice begins as a rose-patchouli scent but, as I’ve already mentioned, it isn’t especially rosy or heavy on earthy patchouli.  The rose is done with a light hand and it’s a warm, sweet rose.  The patchouli is also done with a light hand and this isn’t a heavy, earthy patchouli but instead an effervescent airy patchouli.  The heart of the fragrance builds into a sweeter floral-patchouli, that is recognizably a patchouli note but one I would think even patchouli-haters might enjoy.   The dry down becomes a soft musky tonka vanilla.  This is one of those fragrances where it seems downright silly trying to dissect its various notes because it is above all an abstract perfume and one which is more amazing than its list of notes could ever suggest.

Divine L’Inspiratrice is classic, refined, airy, diffuse and an outstanding patchouli creation.  

Official notes list: Rose, ylang-ylang, vanilla, tonka bean, vetiver, patchouli

Other reviews:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lalique Le Parfum: A Review

I’ve been wearing Lalique Le Parfum occasionally for several years.  It’s interesting the way I’m noticing different facets of familiar fragrances these days.  Initially I thought Lalique Le Parfum was a beautiful, sweet vanilla-oriental, but slightly boring.  I still think of Lalique Le Parfum as a beautiful sweet vanilla-oriental but now I find it to be an unusual vanilla fragrance.  It’s a sweet vanilla scent with a striking twist which sets it apart from most other vanilla-orientals.  

The notes list is fairly helpful with this one.  I’ll post the notes here and then discuss further below

Top notes: bay leaf, bergamot and pink peppercorn
Middle notes: jasmine and heliotrope
Base notes: sandalwood, tonka bean, patchouli and vanilla

Lalique Le Parfum begins with a minty-pepper quality positioned atop a boozy whipped vanilla base.  The vanilla is so frothy and fluffy it makes me think of a down-stuffed pillow, filled with the finest white feathers but also the softest and most powdery marshmallows.  The minty and peppery top notes are slightly green and herbaceous and a wonderful contrast with the sweet fluff found beneath.  What I’ve decided after many years is that Lalique Le Parfum is unusual because it showcases a beautiful tension between two seemingly contrasting accords, the minty-pepper top over the sweet, fluffy base.  For me, the top notes stick around throughout and never leave the vanilla all by itself.   There is a touch of patchouli in the base, which I don’t think of as especially noticeable, but I know it’s there because it tempers the sweetness of the frothy vanilla and almondy heliotropin.

I normally can’t wear vanilla-centric fragrances so you know if I love this there must be something different about it.  Lalique Le Parfum is not an edible gourmand.  Even though I’ve described it as smelling like fluffy vanilla and marshmallows it’s still an abstract oriental and not a foodie creation.  Lalique Le Parfum makes me think of candy canes and powdery snow.  There’s a chilly effect and I imagine myself peering through a frosty window from the outside as a wintry wind swirls snowflakes around me as I gaze into an elegant dining room decorated in white and gold with a centerpiece made of peppermint candies. 

Dominique Ropion is the nose behind this wonderful fragrance.  It was released in 2005.  When it was first released it was expensive, but now it can be found for a fraction of it's retail price.

Other reviews of Lalique Le Parufm:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant: Perfume Review

About four years ago, Brian sent me a decant of Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant with the idea that I’d fall head over heels in love.  I tried it and I was confused.  Jungle L’Elephant wasn’t awful, but I just couldn’t understand this fragrance in the least.  This doesn’t happen to me often.  In fact, I think this is the first time I ever experienced a fragrance in an entirely new way several years later.  The first several tries (and I definitely tried this stuff at least a half dozen times) on skin I found it to be oddly fuzzy, blurry, almost hazy and wiggly.  I remember it tickled my nose and made it feel twitchy.  Jungle L’Elephant seemed a little gamey and very, very murky.  I could never get past this furry murkiness to evaluate the fragrance.  Back then, I thought this strange sensation was the sum total of the fragrance and I just didn’t get it.  I never disliked it; I just found it to be an unusual olfactory experience.  So many reviews described Jungle L’Elephant as spicy, cozy and wonderful but I just felt left out of all the fun.

Fast forward almost 4 years to Monday of this week. Orders for The Posh Peasant were being filled by my part-time helper as I walked into the room.  The air was filled with this amazing smell. I stopped in my tracks.  Normally, I can identify what has been sprayed fairly accurately.  I’m familiar with almost every fragrance we have in stock.  But this…this amazing smell…was completely new to me.  It was spicy and warm but not foodie.  The aroma lingering in the air wasn’t dense but diffuse, it was clearly an oriental with gorgeous spice notes but not one I was familiar with.  At that moment, if I had to guess I would have suggested it was something like Amouage Epic…but without certainty.  I knew this totally new-to-me perfume was something spicy and slightly sweet but very unusual.  I considered maybe it was something new that I hadn't smelled yet.  Finally I just asked what it was that had just been sprayed and was told “Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant.”  I was shocked.

So now that I had smelled Jungle L’Elephant in the air, not concentrated on my skin, I was able to smell the spicy cinnamon-clove-fruity goodness that everyone else had been enjoying all these years.  It was as if I was only able to smell the table of contents in the past and never engage with the main story.   It was amazing.  This unknown scent lingering in the air was something I had been longing for, for quite some time.  I’ve always wanted an oriental gourmand which is spicy and cozy, potent yet not headache-inducing, gourmand but not edible/foodie and most of all, Abstract.  Jungle L’Elephant has recognizable spices like cinnamon, clove, cumin and cardamom with some unrecognizable fruity sweetness (if I had to guess I’d say the fruity quality smelled slightly of raisin) all set against this very furry cashmeran-type backdrop giving it an overall abstract style instead of smelling like any of these particular notes.   

Two similar fragrances are Serge Lutens Feminite de Bois and Dior Dolce Vita.  I’ve never been a fan of Feminite de Bois, it’s always registered as stewed fruits over too-much cedar on me.  I have enjoyed Dolce Vita in the past.  A former colleague of mine wore Dolce Vita in the late 90’s and it smelled stunning on her.  The difference is that Dolce Vita has a much stronger white floral quality while Jungle L’Elephant doesn’t have anything recognizably floral to me.

The perfumer behind this abstract spicy gem called Jungle L’Elephant is Dominique Ropion.  Ropion is one of my absolute favorite perfumers since he created some of my (nostalgic) 90’s favorites, Givenchy Amarige and Ysatis as well as my favorite tuberose, Frederic Malle Carnal Flower and a mid-2000’s favorite which nobody talks about these days, Lalique Le Parfum.  Now that I’m IN LOVE with Jungle L’Elephant I’m wondering if there’s also a chance for me to love Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie.  Une Fleur de Cassie is another Ropion creation I’ve never understood.  Similar to Jungle L’Elephant, Une Fleur de Cassie also has a blurry/murky/furry/fuzzy quality I just can’t get past.  Perhaps I ought to have someone spray Une Fleur de Cassie in the air so I can smell its aroma, diffusely about the room?  Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady, another Ropion creation, also has a similar furry/blurry quality…hmmm…I’m seeing a pattern here.

In sum, it took 4 years but I am smitten with Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant.  It is gorgeous and I will never be without it. Others have found Jungle L’Elephant to be overly strong.  Maybe I have fume-eating-skin but I don’t find it to be terribly strong at all.  It’s potent for the first 30 minutes but after that it mellows and doesn’t have mega-watt sillage.  I only need 2 sprays, but it ain’t no Angel on me.

Top notes: Mandarin, Cardamom, Cumin, Clove
Middle notes: Ylang-Ylang, Licorice, Mango, Heliotrope
Base notes : Patchouli, Vanilla, Amber, Cashmeran

As far as it’s having been discontinued, I can still see it on the Kenzo USA website, so all is not lost (yet).

Other reviews (here are 5, but there are many more reviews of Jungle L’Elephant):

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Vanilla perfumes for those who dislike gourmands

If you’ve read here before you probably know that I’m not a lover of gourmand fragrances.  I have two major issues with gourmands; 1. They make me hungry and 2. I’d rather not smell like actual desserts.   The few times I’m worn things like Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille, Guerlain Spirituese Double Vanille or Guerlain Tonka Imperiale I find myself stopping at Starbucks for a latte and 3-piece order of their petite vanilla scones or whipping up a spontaneous batch of cookies at home (no joke).  I can't even burn vanilla or foodie scented candles in my house as I've been known to burst into random baking episodes due to the yummy aroma.  Obviously, I don’t need any sort of encouragement when it comes to my sweet tooth so for the sake of my waist line can’t wear gourmands.   

Even so, I still have the desire to wear comforting vanilla scents once in a while.  After thinking I simply couldn’t wear vanilla prominent fragrances I found a category of vanilla scents that I can wear.  I’ve come to think of the first three in the below list as “cologne vanillas” because they incorporate a fresh citrus quality in their top notes and once dried down these fragrance never veer too foodie for my liking.  The fourth fragrance on my list isn’t fresh or citrusy but it’s a dry, herbal vanilla.

Jo Malone Vanille & Anise
The Non-Blonde reminded me of this underrated gem the other day when she reviewed it.   I don’t think Jo Malone’s Vanille & Anise was met with high praise precisely because it isn’t a sweet, foodie vanilla scent.  I would guess that most people wanting a vanilla fragrance would expect something with the name “Vanille & Anise” to be mostly vanilla extract, licorice and heavily influenced by candied desserts.  JM Vanille & Anise is a light, air-spun fragrance that begins with a fresh citrus character and ends with a slightly sweeter but dry anise-vanilla quality. For the first few moments JM Vanille & Anise does make me think of a dessert, but it’s lemon meringue, with its white meringue top impossibly high and air-filled.  Jo Malone Vanille & Anise loses most of the citrus notes once dried but never becomes dense, it remains gauzy and effortless.

Creed Sublime Vanille
I wrote about this back in 2010 and have continued to find it to be a wonderful ‘cologne vanilla.’  It’s essentially a classic eau de cologne over a fairly dry vanilla base.   It wears and smells so simply which is why I’d be a lot more excited about it if it didn’t cost as much.  For a seemingly simplistic fragrance the price might make you balk but I’ve come to terms with the cost and find Sublime Vanille to be a worthy addition to my (small) collection of wear-able vanilla perfumes.  Sublime Vanille has slight citrus tendencies at the start and dries down to a fresh, vanilla-cologne for any occasion and any season. 

Atelier Vanille Insensee
Like the two above, Vanille Insensee is a beautifully rendered vanilla lying beneath a fresh beginning of lime and citrus.  There is vetiver and moss in the base keeping the vanilla in check, never veering too foodie.  Vanille Insensee can be worn year-round.  Even though “fresh,” “clean,” and “sheer” often spell AVOID in my perfume vocabulary book, this fragrance is all three adjectives and yet it’s absolute love, bliss and vanilla-genius.

Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise
Vanille Exquise is not a cologne vanilla but instead an unusual herbal and dry vanilla.  There is a note at the start which bothers some people and I think this note is angelica.  It’s a jarring start, like a sharp, herbal knife to the nose.  In almost all other instances, I dislike angelica (Guerlain Angelique Noire and L’Instant) but in AG Vanille Exquise, I know this jarring quality subsides (well, somewhat, it never entirely disappears) so I enjoy the ride knowing it will become softer and gentler once dried down.  The edgy beginning coupled with soothing dry down makes me think of the saying about the month of March “... comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”  AG Vanille Exquise also has a beautiful gaiac wood note and is overall a perfectly sophisticated woody-herbal vanilla, actually, it's my favorite.

I’m not including vanilla-orientals in this list.  I have a number of orientals which are prominently vanilla that I also enjoy, but I mentally file these in a different category.  Some examples are Profumi del Forte Roma Imperiale, The Different Company Oriental Lounge, Love, Chloe Eau Intense, Parfumerie Generale Felanilla and L’Artisan Havana Vanille (renamed recently but I’m too lazy to look it up). 

If you're like me and can’t wear gourmands, what are some vanilla fragrances you've found yourself able to wear?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012: Ringing It In

It's been a strange, eventful year.  I haven't always had time to write.  I haven't usually, I should say.  And in many ways my feelings about blogging have shifted; whether or not permanently, I don't know.  I started out with a real joy for blogging here, and a genuine enthusiasm for the things I was learning, not just on the shelf but from other bloggers.  The last two years, especially, brought quite a shift.  What seemed like a big happy family showed signs of strain and competitiveness I'd never noticed before, and after ranting about it for a while (some called it ranting, I called it satire, meaning I felt it was worth writing about, and poking fun seemed hopeful, indicating things could change) I went quiet.

I also got very busy.  Andy Tauer and I started working on the Tableau de Parfums line more than a year ago, but all of our behind the scenes efforts were made public in 2011, and that involved more work.  I enjoyed that work, and continue to, but it's given me less time to write and a very different perspective.  I was less interested in what was going on outside my workspace, because my desk was so full, and felt too that I Smell shouldn't simply be used as a broken record voice box for my pursuits and adventures or even setbacks with Tableau.

At the same time, several months ago, I started to worry that my enthusiasm for perfume in general was gone for good.  I'm happy to say that it's not.  At least I think not.  Yesterday, driving back from rural Mississippi, I spotted an independent, mom/pop drugstore I'd never seen before.  I got excited, knowing they'd probably have perfume, and that among their inventory might possibly be older bottles.  You won't necessarily be thrilled by what I walked out with - old version Cinnabar and Anais Anais, and a bottle of Bill Blass Hot - but here's the thing: I realized that we don't need to be excited by the same things.  Being excited at all, still having that capacity, is good enough for me.

It's an important distinction for me, because as I say, for whatever reason, I haven't been excited about mainstream or even niche perfumery in quite a while.  And I've been bummed out about that.  Walking into that drugstore and discovering those surprises reminds me that the fragrance industry, and even the fragrance community, however that's defined, aren't the reasons I'm into perfume, nor are they my sole outlets in pursuing this interest.

Most of my year was spent with my old favorites.  I found myself seeing them in new ways, enjoying them into different seasons, noticing how they changed in different climates or with a shift of personal perspective.  It's nothing thrilling, probably, to write yet again about Chanel Coco, when I've written about it before, particularly when the Chanel talking points are Beige and Jersey (if ever two words summed up the state of the industry...).  Yet I kept seeing Coco and so many other old favorites in new light.  They kept feeling new to me.

This year more than any other so far made me feel it was pointless to talk about even these old favorites, even were I to find something new about them, because reformulations are so frequently conducted at this point that to talk about one version only is some sort of mistruth.

The barometer is gone, or at least I have trouble figuring out how to find one in my conversation.  This was illuminated pretty baldly for me during a trip to Chicago several months ago.  Oh how they were stirring and shaking and spinning in the Lush department at Macy's.  Such a commotion.  You'd think perfume had been created a year ago.  It was scary but touching, somehow.  Yet beyond Lush, a ghost town.  I wandered the counters of Macy's without ever seeing a sales associate.  And why should they be there?  Smelling the perfumes only confirmed for me that there was nothing really to talk about anyway; certainly nothing to explain.

The Estee Lauder counter was represented, but all the juices in the tester bottles looked different.  Even Private Collection, usually rich gold in color, was pale, like somebody had refilled it with water.  The perfumes I love and recognize instantly smelled only generally like themselves.  Though I knew that Estee Lauder, like everyone else, practices reformulation as a matter of routine, I'd foolishly held them up as some basically unchanging entity in a sea of otherwise constantly shifting marketplace priorities.  The versions I smelled of Cinnabar, Beautiful, Azuree, and Youth Dew there at Macy's made it clear that Lauder has as much contempt for me as any other manufacturer.  Which is why this old bottle of Cinnabar in a forgotten drugstore was such a visceral thrill.

Another key factor in my relationship to perfume in 2011 had to do with watching perfumers work.  seeing Andy Tauer in action, how much care and concern and imagination he puts into what he does, set a high bar for me.  I felt the same about Olfacta, who sent me a wonderful fougere she'd been working on for a while.  These insights and experiences were so personal and meaningful that they inevitably spoiled me when it came to perfume packaged impersonally and without much imagination beyond their heartfelt labs.

What I wish for everyone in 2012 is probably perspective.  My trip yesterday to the drugstore reminded me how important it is, and how hard to come by.  People are still out there doing wonderful things, truly unique, meaningful things.  The ubiquitous reach of mass media and online outlets lead us to believe that we know every corner, deadening our perspectives.  I'm telling you: I believe these little proverbial drugstores of surprise are out there in the world, waiting for us to discover them when we least expect it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Year That Was 2011

I wasn’t going to write a Best of 2011 list this year because there weren’t many that moved me.  But then I decided to write something because I do enjoy ruminating upon the previous year through the perfume lens.

I encountered lots of mediocre to just plain good perfumes this year.  Several are receiving high praise and plenty of buzz in the blogosphere but I found them to be average and a little tiresome (I’m looking at you Bottega Veneta; which to me, is a colorless and subtle version of Gucci Rush with added suede).  I thought I was in love with Cartier Baiser Vole for a few days, truthfully the start IS a gorgeous lily, but I find the fragrance doesn’t hold up beyond an hour.  On me, Baiser Vole just falls apart into a bland musk after 60 minutes.  And Prada Candy is a pleasant and linear caramel-oriental, which is almost as if the perfumer created a gourmand base forgetting the rest of the fragrance. Candy is pleasantly delicious and I will not disagree with those who think this will be a big commercial success (seems a low hanging fruit to me, a wise business decision by Prada to jump on the gourmand bandwagon).  However, since I prefer abstract perfume over realistic candy/gourmands I instead would rather wear anything from Thierry Mugler A Taste of Fragrance collection; all of which are excellent.

Best niche: Parfum d’Empire Azemour Les Orangers
This starts with a beautiful orange blossom but quickly morphs into a major oakmoss adventure

Best department store: Love, Chloe Eau Intense
This isn’t an intense version of the original Love, Chloe.  Eau Intense is a soft, vanillic-oriental. Potency-wise it’s actually less intense than the original.

Department store honorable mention: Tom Ford Violet Blonde
This is a pretty floral I just wish had more violet 

Best packaging: Illamasqua Freak
Love the bottle but the juice inside may as well be dishwater, it’s that uninteresting.  But I love the bottle so much I had to have it nonetheless.

Most appreciated: Annick Goutal Mon Parfum Cherie par Camille
This, sadly, doesn’t work for me and I’m the biggest Annick Goutal fan.  But I am grateful for Camille Goutal’s boldness and respect for classic perfumery with this one.

Total embarrassment: Chanel Jersey.  I wasn’t as hard as others were on Chanel Beige.  But Jersey?  Pink Sugar is so much better than this.

Blasphemy: Dior changing Miss Dior Cherie simply to Miss Dior and relegating the real Miss Dior to “Miss Dior Classic”

Random find in my closet: Cacharel Loulou Blue.  Brian sent me a bottle of Loulou Blue probably 2 years ago.  I just pulled it out this fall and realized it’s quite good.  It reminds me of Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, in style, it’s a sweet, powdery floral-vanilla.  Truly a shame it’s discontinued.

Best “office friendly” fragrance I previously found ho-hum but lately am finding to be just right so often: Balenciaga Paris

Boring-by-perfumista-standards, but somehow these were hitting the spot perfectly many times this year: Donna Karan Cashmere Mist (coupled with the matching body crème) and Estee Lauder Sensuous Nude (also coupled with body crème).  I can’t explain this phenomena since I’m the first person to call these plain vanilla-musks useless, but I like these two.

Enough already
The seemingly trillion new niche lines and releases.  Enough is enough. 
Oud. I’ve been over oud from day 1 since I never liked the smell of rotting moldy tree gunk.
Celebrity fragrances.  I’m nervous that only Celebrity scents will exist 10 years from now. I am, however, hoping that Madonna’s fragrance is at least a cut above the rest.  And I will definitely try Lady Gaga’s fragrance.

Terrible ideas:
Blood concept
“Not Perfumes” (these ambroxan & invisible musk things that are mostly undetectable, such as Juliette Has a Gun’s Not a Perfume, Chanel No. 18, Molecule 02 by Escentric Molecules, Another 13 from Le Labo and so on…there are many others but I pay them no need)

Best cheap discount store finds:
Prada Intense (love this jammy, earthy number, and I realize it was quite a find to get this for under $40)
L de Lolita (chocolate floral oriental fix in what might be the ugliest bottle, ever, but for $17 I love this stuff)
Calvin Klein Truth, someone I just swapped with introduced me to this discontinued gem. I found it online for a reasonable price and I bet I’ll be wearing this when the weather warms up.

Older loves I’ve enjoyed immensely in 2011:
Etat Libre d’Orange: so many from this line are really great.  I feel like I’m in the minority who finds their cheeky marketing a riot (for those who find ELdO’s marketing annoying, you realize its satire, right? Almost all commercial perfume companies are serious about their ridiculously sexualized imagery while Etat is just poking fun).  I believe they have an upcoming fragrance called “Philippine Houseboy” which cracks me up.  The past few months I’ve been enjoying Vraie Blonde, Archives 69, Noel al Balcon, Putain des Palaces and Rossy de Palma. 

Parfumerie Generale Lounages: a soft, powdery floral, which is more complex that one might think.  But it is an old fashioned/vintage type scent, reminds me of Brosseau’s L’Ombre Bleue and maybe a little like Apres L’Ondee

I keep revisiting Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady and have liked it more and more every time

Cacharel Loulou continues to blow my mind

Atelier Vanille Insensee (was this a 2010 or 2011 release?) is within my top 3 favorite vanillas.  I don’t wear vanilla-centric perfumes often but when I’m hankering for a vanilla fix, I reach for either Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise or this.  Just fyi, this isn’t an “incense” vanilla, the name translates to something like “insanely vanilla” and not “vanille incense” as one might think.

Bond No. 9 New York Oud.  I don’t like oud so I guess this is an oud for those who don’t like oud. But I am sometimes transfixed by this.

Every year I rediscover just how much I love Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse and Guerlain Chamade.  Both are incredibly gorgeous.

Here’s wishing a wonderful 2012 to all our readers!  I hope each and every one of you out there has a healthy, happy, successful and contented new year.