After presenting a feature on the classics (please see Part I and Part II), I left the subject with a promise to return with a list of fragrances of more recent vintage. In other words, modern classics. Given the increasing rate of releases and decreasing market life of fragrances, any perfume that remains on best-selling lists for more than 3 years seems to automatically receive the title of a classic. When creating my list, I decided to limit myself to fragrances created since 1990. The following fragrances are not necessarily best-sellers (there are indeed a few resounding market failures among them such as Yves Saint Laurent M7), but I am compelled to highlight them nevertheless for their creativity and innovative accords. In some cases, I chose to include them simply because they are beautiful. Admittedly, this list is by no means exhaustive. …
Alexander McQueen Kingdom–unapologetically sensual and raw, Kingdom is in a league of its own. It makes a statement, and it does so brilliantly.
Annick Goutal Vétiver–marine, iodine notes juxtaposed with the earthy richness of vetiver. Fascinating pairing, which I have not previously encountered accented to such an extent.*
Bvlgari Bulgari Black–the genius of perfumer Annick Menardo is in turning the notes of rubber, smoke and tar into a seductive potion.
Comme des Garçons and Incense Series–avant-garde and daring, Comme des Garçons fragrances have charted new waters and dared to break rules. Insence Series is remarkable in paying tribute to the most ancient form of perfume.
Etro Messe de Minuit–unusual and striking composition, blending the exotic with the familiar.
Fendi Theorema–I admire perfumer Christine Nagel’s treatment of woods and spices. Theorema is a beautiful example, rich, glowing, with an elegant sillage. Despite its full-bodied character, it manages to sustain an airy quality.
Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur and Carnal Flower–the former is a post-modern Shalimar, the latter is the most beautiful tribute to tuberose since Robert Piguet Fracas. I admire the concept and the creativity of Frédéric Malle’s line, and I find it difficult to pick only a few to highlight. I would also add Angéliques Sous la Pluie as a modern illustration of a classical citrus cologne genre.
Hermès Eau des Merveilles–ambery, salty notes highlighted in the most remarkable fashion. Without being marine, Eau des Merveilles beautifully conjures the scent of the beach at dusk.
Kenzo Flower–abstract composition that takes the plush idea of a classical floral oriental and gives it a crisp twist.
Lancôme Trésor–peach made of rose petals in a monolithic style initiated by perfumer Sophia Grojsman. Monolithic refers to the fact that the fragrance unfolds panoramically, with the composition retaining its character throughout its development. This technique can be contrasted with the classical sequential style of composition, which is demonstrated by fragrances like Carven Ma Griffe and Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier–innovator among niche/artisanal lines, L’Artisan Parfumeur has launched several excellent fragrances since the inception of the line in the late 1970s. In the 1990s, Premier Figuier is one of the fragrance that stood out the most. It was the first composition to incorporate a novel green fig accord, created by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. It was subsequently used by Giacobetti to create Philosykos for Diptyque. Another Giacobetti’s creation for L’Artisan, Dzing!, can be recommended as an example of the ethereal animalic composition.
Narciso Rodriguez for Her–composition that has given a new twist to the simple idea of a floral musk. Perhaps, it can be faulted on the innovation parameter, but it has been responsible for setting a new trend for the musky-woody blends.
Serge Lutens—Ambre Sultan is considered to be the gold standard amber. Bois de Violette showcases the nuanced work with woods. La Myrrhe is a modern aldehydic fragrance. Muscs Koublaï Khan is a potent, yet sophisticated animalic blend. The entire line is worthy of exploration. Love them or hate them, Serge Lutens fragrances are not likely to leave you indifferent.
Shiseido Féminité du Bois–the quintessential masculine note of cedarwood is made feminine. Interesting execution and striking effect.
Thierry Mugler Angel–Angel started the gourmand craze of the 1990s than does not seem to be on the wane. Yet, despite the ubiquity of Angel copycats, nothing can come close to the magic of the original. Warm, melting chocolate, honey, and candied apples. Yet, the bittersweet and resinous effervescence of patchouli quickly dispels any illusions that Angel is all about “sugar and spice and everything nice.”
Yves Saint Laurent M7–perfumers Alberto Morillas and Jacques Cavallier have worked together on numerous projects, but M7 is among their most daring. This woody oriental cannot be described in any way but arresting.
Thierry Mugler Angel ad from Parfums de Pub.
*Vétiver breaks my own rule of only including fragrances created since the 1990s, however its incredible marine accord has anticipated the marine trend of the 1990s. I simply had to highlight it.