Thus, for the first time ever, I am composing a list of...
Best Perfumes I Discovered Last Year,
in no particular order, since favorites change based upon mood, season, and other variables.
1. Tea for Two, L'Artisan Parfumeur. Notes listed by perfumer: smoky tea, bergamot, cinnamon, ginger, honey, vanilla.
What I get: leather and tobacco on top of a sweet, creamy chai tea, with some spice biscotti on the side. The smokiness never gets sharp, thanks to that honey and vanilla wrapped around it. It's dark and smoky and leathery, but I can't help loving it because it's so darn sweet. Amazing in cold weather, but I sure didn't mind wearing it in summer either.
2. Dee, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. (Scroll down to the D's.) Notes listed by perfumer: soft English leather, rosewood and tonka with a hint of incense, parchment and soft woods.
What I get: mostly smooth cedar, with some root-beer-like sweetness (must be the tonka), and a bit of spicy smoke (must be the incense). It's a soothing and subtle fragrance, but it's also strangely hot--as in sexy. (Must be the leather...) Androgynous, too. Despite its masculine description (it's named after alchemist of old, John Dee), I'd say man or woman could wear this. I know *I* reach for it a lot.
3. Koko Haze, Mbeze. Notes listed by perfumer: coconut, toasted hazelnut, mango tea and sweet orange.
What I get: coconut, absolutely, in a way that evokes both a warm palm-tree-dotted beach and a tasty macaroon fresh from the oven. I'm surprised how well this works on me, and how delicious it is. Coconut lovers shall swoon--and I don't usually even count myself among the coconut lovers. Perfect for summer, of course, but also comforting in mid-winter when you just want to dream of summer. Again, not something I usually find myself doing, but if summer smells like this, I'm happy to dream of it.
4. One, Smell Bent. (No link listed because it was a limited edition and is now--*sob*--gone! Except I do still have a bottle or two...) Notes listed by perfumer: cardamom, aging paperbacks, dark vanilla, dry wood, sweet musk.
What I get: cardamom, baby! Yes, I suppose the gentle smell of old paperbacks and woods, and the sweetness of vanilla and some kind of musk, are back there too. But cardamom on its own is a rich and complex scent, and it dominates this fragrance, and owns it in a mouth-watering way. Alas, it had to be a limited edition. Please, perfumers of the world, explore the cardamom note more!
5. Philosykos, Diptyque. Notes listed by perfumer: fig tree (leaves, green fruit, milky sap, and bark), and white cedar.
What I get: fig trees, yes, but in a rich and detailed way--the green juices of the leaves and stems, the wood, the soil, a hint of the beach and of coconut sunscreen. Fruitiest in its opening notes, then it ripens into a perfect woodsy-green-fresh blend, and finally lingers on a gorgeous cedar base. I never expected to love this so much, not being generally a fruit-fragrance fan. But it's like a summer vacation on a Greek island--or what I imagine that would be like, having, sadly, never been on one. Exotic yet comfortable. A winner well deserving of its popularity.
(Honorable mention: for a similar but lighter and less expensive scent, try Buddha's Fig by Infusion Organique.)
6. Cedarwood Tea, CB I Hate Perfume. Notes listed by perfumer: Himalayan & Moroccan cedars, black Indian Tea, incense.
What I get: I adore cedar, so trying this one was a no-brainer. But it's a different cedar than the usual shaved-wood smell that most fragrances capture. This is a fresh, living variety of cedar, like you're standing in an actual forest. I detect no incense, but the tea brings a slightly citrusy, lavender-like accord to the mix, making it especially clean. Apparently the perfumer originally designed this scent as a wardrobe spray, to keep clothes fresh, and indeed it would be great as that--"clean" and "fresh" are two of the words that repeatedly come to mind with it. But a clean, fresh forest, not a clean, fresh sheet of fabric softener. It's another limited edition, so find it while you can.
7. New Haarlem, Bond No. 9. Notes listed by perfumer: bergamot, cedarwood, coffee, vanilla, patchouli, lavender.
What I get: Makes me think of a Saturday morning--coffee, brunch treats like pain au chocolat or cinnamon French toast, a hint of manliness like my husband's shaving cream and/or deodorant, even a suggestion of newspaper ink. It also puts me in mind of an airport concourse, in a good way: the coffee and food and new-magazine scents, along with the clean, cologne-doused travelers wandering through. It's strong--only takes a drop or two to keep me pleasantly scented for the majority of the day (so just buy a sample vial off eBay; it'll last you a while)--but it's an approachable and comfy scent for me. In short, New Haarlem carries that mix of "cozy yet exciting" that I adore finding in a perfume. Smells great on me and would be fabulous on a man too.
8. Incensed, Smell Bent. Notes listed by perfumer: Omani frankincense, Kenyan myrrh, vanilla-soaked woods.
What I get: It's reminiscent of church incense, especially in the first hour or so of wearing, and I love the mystical spiciness of it. The mix gradually dries down to basically a rich vanilla, which makes me think of baking cookies or something--but they'd still be mystical cookies. This scent comes in both a fragrance oil and a spray variety. I got the oil, and it is indeed strong. A little dab will do ya. Good deal at around $20 for the bottle, though. That's practically free, in the perfume world.
(Honorable mention: for a somewhat similar blend of exotic woodsiness and vanilla, try Sands of Morocco by Infusion Organique.)
9. Owl solid perfume, Patch NYC. Notes listed by perfumer: sandalwood, tobacco, vetiver.
What I get: I'm fully on board with their marketing description--a twilight forest, mysterious, elusive. This scent is mellow enough to wear to sleep, but mystical enough to wear for Halloween. Earthy with a hint of green. Very well blended. Comes in a candle form too.
10. Elixir, Penhaligon's. Notes listed by perfumer: eucalyptus, cardamom, orange blossom absolute, white cedar, red Turkish rose absolute, Egyptian jasmine absolute, cinnamon leaves, mace, rosewood, benzoin, tonka beans, vanilla, incense, red sandalwood, guaicum wood.
What I get: That was quite the list of notes, huh? No wonder it took me several wears to get a proper feel for this fragrance. It kept shifting on me, like an alluring but opaque fog, seldom letting me settle on any one note. What I finally came away with, however, is church incense in a delicate, ethereal kind of way. I picture an ancient cathedral in a beautiful Italian city, tolling its bells for Mass on a misty Christmas Eve, and (when I'm wearing Elixir) can envision myself as the elegant wool-wrapped Italian woman walking home beneath the old city walls. Oh, I don't know. I still have a hard time figuring it out. But I keep wanting to smell it again, so clearly Olivia Giacobetti--the perfumer, who also designed Tea for Two and Philosykos--did something right. Again. I love her.
So. If you've read this far, you must like perfumes too. Thus, please let me know if you'd like samples of one or two of the above scents, and I will do my best to hook you up. Limited time offer! Scents I *can't* share: Koko Haze (can't see how I'd get the roll-on oil decanted into something else), New Haarlem (only have a small sample myself), and Elixir (same). Otherwise, go ahead and ask. I am standing by with sample spray vials ready to fill.