Friday, December 30, 2011

My Favourites of 2011

Another year, and dozen bottles

Well, another year is almost past and my perfume cabinet is getting pretty full. One of my New Year's resolutions will be to go through it and take out bottles I never wear. They can be boxed up and moved to a dresser drawer or perhaps traded. Dan, who organizes the wonderful meet-up events at Noor, tells me he's planning a bottle/decant swap event for 2012. Perfect timing, because if I can't make more room in my closet, how will I buy the new perfumes on my wish list?

I sniffed a lot of perfume in 2011, most of it OK, some of it astoundingly beautiful.  In December, as I contemplated my Christmas list, I began to feel that there was nothing left for me to buy or ask for. I have so many great perfumes. As you can see from the photo above, I could wear what I have for the rest of my life and probably never run out.

So, here are my top 10 favourite perfumes of 2011.

1. Parfumerie Generale Papyrus de Ciane

Number 1 on my list and my biggest surprise of 2011 is Papyrus de Ciane. Dry, dark, mossy and green, this tribute to the famous Mousse de Saxe base is perfect. I was passionately obsessed with PdC for most of the fall; it was all I wanted to wear. It seriously interfered with me testing anything else, which was a surprise to me because I had originally tested the sample in 2010 and found it too bitter. How much difference a year can make! In 2011, I had to have a full bottle. My nose is definitely still changing.

2. Jean Patou Vacances

The early part of 2011 was all about vintage perfume for me. The wonderful Mr. Fritch at Fritch's Pharmacy in Kitchener introduced me to many old beauties and I was flattered to be interviewed for an article about vintage perfume in Maclean's magazine. My best purchase from Fritch's was Jean Patou Vacances. Not only is the bottle with it's green glass stopper beautiful, the perfume is a gorgeous green lilac that lifts my mood every time I wear it. It's a heart breaker too, because it's been discontinued and is notoriously hard to find. This is the only bottle I will probably ever have, so I treasure it.

3. Serge Lutens Five O'Clock au Gingembre

Fresh ginger and early grey tea. Spicy, warm, dry and yummy - Five O'clock au Gingembre was the perfume I wore while baking Christmas cookies this year with a good friend. I expect to continue to wear it often this winter.

4. L'Artisan Parfumeur Fleur de Narcisse (Exceptional Harvests Collection 2006)

At a perfume meetup at Noor this year, I met Bryna, who may be my perfume evil twin. What I mean is, she doesn't love what I love and lucky for me, she likes to trade! For a few samples from my collection she gave me a generous decant of Fleur de Narcisse. I had been coveting this limited release for a while. The daffodil smells like the volcanic soil it was grown in, as well as hay and leather. It's a day in the country in a bottle.

5. Chanel Bois des Iles

Chanel finally released its Exclusifs line in smaller bottles! I snapped up Bois des Iles which I had been dreaming of since 2008 but just couldn't justify the huge 200ml bottle. The new, smaller 75ml size is perfect. Now I can wrap myself in its creamy sandalwood and gingerbread cashmere scent anytime I need some comfort.

6. Lorenzo Villoresi Sandalo

My Dear Husband took me to Rome in the spring of 2011, and it inspired me to buy him a bottle of Lorenzo Villoresi Sandalo. I don't think this niche Italian perfumer gets enough love in the perfume blogs; he is very talented. Sandalo is a smooth and spicy sandalwood of high quality which is getting harder to find these days. I can hardly keep my hands off my DH when he wears it.

7. Frederic Malle En Passant

2011 was the year I met the charming Frederic Malle! He gave a fascinating lecture on perfume and the industry at Holt Renfrew. His niche line of perfumes really started the trend of celebrating perfumers, the artists who create the scents, instead of hiding their names like most mass market perfumes do. I purchased a bottle of En Passant by one of my favourite perfumers Olivia Giacobetti. En passant is a story told with transparent drops of water on lilacs and a soft dusting of flour.

8. L'Artisan Parfumeur Ananas Fizz

My first successful eBay purchase was a box of samples of Ananas Fizz. I think this perfume was discontinued because it's a love it or hate it scent. I didn't expect to love it, but the first sniff of fizzy pineapple from a sample received in a trade made me grin. It was one of my favourite hot weather perfumes in the summer of 2011. I had to have more, but when I went to buy it I realized it had long been discontinued. Luckily, I found the box of samples on eBay and with the help on a funnel and an empty decant bottle, I now have one of the few remaining bottles of Ananas Fizz in existence.

9. Parfums de Nicolai Vie de Château Intense

If you haven't tried any of Patricia Nicolai's perfumes yet, make it a New Year's resolution. She is a genius. Vie de Chateau is la dolce vita in a bottle. Sugared grapefruit, fresh-mown hay and soft suede gloves.

10. Jean Patou Joy

Let's end the list with Joy. Joy was a lucky find at Winners, where you can sometimes stumble on excellent older names in perfume that may have fallen out of fashion but are still of great quality and beauty. Besides Joy, I've bought Rochas Femme, Bvlgari Black and Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia at my favourite Winners. Joy is a classic and beautiful sparkling jasmine bouquet with a smoldering sexy base.

Coming in 2012

Just as I thought I was out, they pull me back in. Samples showed up in the mail and in my stocking that surprised me with their beauty and I am once again covetous. Huzzah sayeth the retailers. Right now I am wearing the heck out of these samples and will be reviewing them soon:
  • Mary Greenwell Plum - Maybe the most beautiful thing I have ever smelled.
  • Hermes Eau des Merveilles - Sexy perfect unisex skin scent
  • By Kilian Liaisons Dangereuses - Green plum, cassis, rose, cinnamon and musk. Yum.
  • Parfums d'Empire Azemour  les Orangers - If you love old-fashioned oakmoss heavy chypres, run, buy this now.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Tannenbaum - 3 Wood Perfumes for Christmas

A Joint Blogging Project for A Merry Christmas!

Another year has flown by and it's time to do our annual (2 years now!) Christmas group blogging project. This year Redolent of Spices has kindly organized a huge group of perfume bloggers to participate in celebrating the season by posting reviews of perfumes that feature wood notes.

Woody perfumes are some of my favourites. Whether it's bracing cedar, creamy sandalwood, peppy pine, or moody black hemlock, wood is indispensable in perfume as a base note in many perfumes but many gorgeous perfumes feature wood as the main note. This year, I am reviewing three wood perfumes I haven't reviewed before, and also listing some of my favourite wood perfumes from my personal collection.

Russian Orthodox Christmas: Comme des Garcons Zagorsk

Zagorsk (now Sergiyev Posad) is a city in Russia, the home of the great Russian monastery Trinity Lavra, the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox church.

Zagorsk is also a perfume, one of the Series 3: Incense perfumes from Commes des Garcons. The series was devoted to incenses of 5 major religions. Zagorsk represents orthodox Christianity. I previously reviewed another from the series, Avignon. Nobody does wood and incense like CdG.

Zagorsk is dark and calm and meditative, like a church deep in the woods, covered in snow. Incense and wood are the main notes. The incense swirls around inside the wood like smoke in a log cabin. The opening is has pine and a very spicy note, almost like cloves. After the opening notes have calmed down, a fruity violet note is noticeable but Zagorsk remains mostly about the trees.

House: Comme des Garcons
Nose: Evelyne Boulanger
Notes: white incense, pine, pimento berries, violet, cedar, iris, hinoki wood, birch wood

Ottoman Empire Christmas: Caron Yatagan

Meant to evoke a romantic vision of mystery and adventure in the Orient of the past, Yatagan is named after the curved turkish sabre.

Caron launched Yatagan in 1976 as a men's perfume. But I adore it. It was no surprise to read that is was created by Vincent Marcello, who also created Private Collection for Estee Lauder. It shares the same gorgeous green and mossy notes.

Yatagan smells like pine trees, green leaves, wood smoke and a touch of leather. Now that I've read the notes, I can smell the celery, more like celery salt, but it's not overwhelming. The chypre base has darker notes of patchouli, moss and musk. It starts fresh green and woody and but ends with moss and leathery.

When I was 14 years old, I had a crush on an older boy from my church's youth group. On a winter retreat, we snuck off and took long walks in the snowy woods where we would sit quietly together for what seemed like hours to me, while he smoked, and maybe held my hand. I was in heaven.

All I want for Christmas is for all men to smell like Yatagan, but if I can't have that, I will dab it on my own wrists, and surround myself with the smell of walking into the snow-hushed woods in a borrowed leather jacket.

House: Caron
Nose: Vincent Marcello
Notes: celery, patchouli, musk (From the Caron website)

Moroccan Christmas: Atelier Cologne Bois Blonds

Atelier Cologne calls Bois Blonds a "cologne absolue" because it has the feeling of a light refreshing cologne but, at 20% perfume concentration, it has the oomph of a stronger perfume. Simple yet powerful, clean yet spicy, sweetly feminine and masculine notes notes combine to make Bois Blonds a perfume for everyone.

Bois Blonds' notes ring clear as a bell. Sweet orange flowers are accented with nose-tingling pink pepper from the bazaar. Around this floral heart dances a touch of incense and sheer woody notes. Vetiver and clean musk provide a base.

One thing not mentioned in the notes is juniper, but I get the distinct impression of juniper berries in the opening notes, like a crisp gin and tonic. The juniper note makes Bois Blonds like an icy cold morning with bright sunshine. I break an icicle off the bush, and I can taste the tree in it. In the afternoon, the sun melts the snow and the sweet smell of spring is just around the corner.

House: Atelier Cologne
Nose: Jérome Epinette
Top notes: Tunisian neroli, pink pepper
Heart notes: Moroccan orange flower, incense
Base notes: Blond woods, musks, vetiver from Haiti

Some of my other favourite wood perfumes are:

  • Chanel Bois des Iles - creamy sandalwood
  • Commes des Garcons Hinoki - a forest of cedar and incense.
  • By Kilian Incense Oud - frankincense and sweet sandalwood bliss
  • Lorenzo Villoresi Sandalo - spicy and smooth sandalwood
  • Bulgari Omnia - gingery cedar and white chocolate
  • Ormonde Jayne Woman - the woods are lovely, dark, and deep with Canadian black hemlock

More  O Tannenbaum

Please visit all the other lovely blogs participating in O Tannenbaum to read their choices of woody perfumes:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Frederic Malle L'eau d'hiver

In the lane, snow is glistening

Gentle and powdery as fresh fallen snow, L'eau d'hiver is both fresh and cuddly.

L'eau d'hiver was created for the Frederic Malle line by the famous perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. Ellena's style is minimalist and sheer and L'eau d'hiver is a good example of that style. It's a light and easy to wear veil of scent. But simple doesn't mean boring.

With l'eau d'hiver, Ellena was trying to create a new concept in perfume, the "eau chaude." When I smell L'eau d'hiver, I smell a  perfume that feels like a sheer cologne, but instead of the traditional crisp and cool experience a cologne can provide, Ellena added warm, comforting notes as well.  L'eau d'hiver is a combination of these cool and warm elements. 

Powdery iris and musk and an ozone-like note create a impression of snow in the opening. Soft and sweet floral notes of heliotrope and clover-honey float in and change the cool grey iris into something warmer. L'eau d'hiver smells like pristine powdery snow and baby skin.When I wear it I imagine an early morning walk though an untouched snowy world, with the sunrise just turning the sky rosy. Around my neck is a cashmere scarf and on my head is my pink bunny-fur hat.

House: Frederic Malle
Nose Jean-Claude Ellena
Notes: iris, heliotrope, honey, musk

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cartier L'Heure Fougueuse IV

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

L'Heure Fougueuse (HF) is the fourth perfume in Cartier's "Les Heures de Parfum" collection of eight fragrances. The collection is meant to evoke moments of "pure emotion" and HF is the feeling of freedom in "the wild gallop of life."

Gallop is the key word here. In-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent has created something unique and beautiful but so shocking to me that I couldn't believe it when I first dabbed on my sample. On first sniff all I could think was "Holy!"

I must have said it out loud, because my husband asked from the next room if everything was ok.  I'm a little late to testing this perfume, and from what I've read I know that many other perfume bloggers smell tea and jasmine etc. in HF and not really horse. But I absolutely smell horse. Or a very clean, recently vacated, horse barn, with hay on the floor and leather tack on the walls.

After a few minutes a pungent green magnolia/lily note dominates the perfume, but the ghost of the horse remains, like a horse blanket and saddle in the background.

Mathilde Laurent calls it a "magnificent combination of animalistic notes recalling the history of luxury perfumery and humanity." Humanity has certainly been close to the horse for much of our history. The smell of HF reminds me of a time when the fragrance of animals was a part of daily life. It's a homey, comforting sort of smell if you've ever liked barns or horses.

Unfortunately the other side of the HF coin, that super green magnolia/lily note is not my favourite.  I've smelled this green lily before, in Tauer Carillon pour un Ange (where it is also combined with leather) and recently in Jo Malone Bluebell (a lot cleaner and lighter.)  I really have a problem with it. Maybe it's something I will grow out of in time, but for now it's a shame I can't wear it, because the horsey part of HF is really amazing.

House: Cartier
Nose: Mathilde Laurent
Notes: Magnolia, "thoroughbred refinement" and "oak barrel" (from the Cartier website)