Reflecting on 2007 in terms of fragrance is quite fitting for me, as it has been an exciting year in this respect. After almost a year of working in the industry I am glad to note that my love and passion for perfume has only grown stronger, even if I began to realize what roadblocks to creativity a fragrance can encounter as it reaches the market. For this reason, every exciting launch is doubly so for me now. Therefore, below is my list of what I found to be most interesting in 2007—and I have to say that for all of the pessimistic thoughts I had at the start of the year, 2007 turned out to be a good year for fragrance.
Best Niche Launch
I love the sense of humor present in the offerings by Crazylibellule & The Poppies, a new line that was one of my best niche discoveries of 2007. A tube of Encens Mystic is something you might find in my purse, next to my wallet, Blackberry and lipstick. The new collections Les Batons and Les Olfactives are likewise interesting. I loved the gentle texture of Ensemble ce Soir Baton as well as its opalescent sheen.
Another line that deserves a special mention is Parfums MDCI. Enlevement au Serail, Rose de Siwa and Promesse de l’Aube are simply breathtaking, while Invasion Barbare is an elegant masculine that avoids all of the clichés of a typical masculine scent. Bravo to Claude Marchal, the founder and the artistic director!
Best Prestige Launch
Prada fragrances accomplish what few fashion lines do—they offer a perfect synergy between the fashion house aesthetic and the scents. By way of example, I fail to see the link between the Belle de Jour elegance of Stefano Pilati’s designs for Yves Saint Laurent and the predictable fruity-floralcy of Elle. Prada Infusion d’Iris, on the other hand, speaks clearly to Miuccia Prada’s love for vintage motifs, modern structures and clean lines. It is a beautiful fragrance to bring along into 2008.
Best Masculine Release
From the orange blossom inflected fragrance to the witty name and great ad campaign, Jean-Paul Gaultier Fleur du Mâle was a launch to notice. It may not have caused a big splash on the market in terms of figures it generated, but it is a daring and clever concept that falls in line with other great florals for men of last year like Dior Homme and Burberry London for Men.
Best Haute Couture Line
If the fragrance world had an haute couture equivalent, Chanel Les Exclusifs would deserve the nomination. The sleek elegance of Chanel resonates in the nuanced and beautifully crafted perfumes that make up this collection: the cool iris of 28, La Pausa, rich patchouli of Coromandel, abstract rose of No 18. From the fragrances to the overall creative aesthetic, the line possesses a distinctive and precious quality.
Best Fragrance Trend
Classical elegance has been the dominant theme of the fragrance launches in 2007, if I am to point out one. Hence, the iris notes (28, La Pausa, Yves Rocher Iris Noir, Guerlain Iris Ganache), the retro themes (Estée Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia) and the vintage reissues (Lancôme Cuir, Robert Piguet Visa and Cravache). This is a trend that one can only welcome.
Best Fragrance Book
If you have a slightest interest in the personalities that create the fragrances you love, you will enjoy discovering the book by Clara Molloy called 22 Perfumers: A Creative Process. It features in-depth interviews with 22 perfumers such as Calice Becker, Dominique Ropion, Olivier Polge, Alberto Morillas, Annick Menardo and many others. It was a surprise Christmas gift from a friend, and now I am tempted to order several copies to give to my other fellow fragrance lovers. The book is available in French and English editions and can be found on Clara Molloy’s website.
Best Masculine to be Worn by Women
I love the rich woody backdrop of Amouage Jubilation XXV, with its rose, cardamom and frankincense notes. Dark, alluring and warm, it is a perfect fragrance for a woman, even though it is designated as a masculine. I loved it the moment I smelled it during the launch party Amouage organized—and I have to admit that after the fiasco launch of Reflections, my expectations were quite low. Although I do wish for the ambery notes to be toned down (as it is, they are quite sharp and aggressive), I find myself reaching over and over again for my bottle.
Best Feminine to be Worn by Men
The restrained elegance of Prada Infusion d’Iris makes it a beautiful masculine. With the floral notes toned down by the woods and musk, this fragrance makes a perfect transition into a scent for a man.
Most Exciting Young Perfumer to Watch
A young perfumer faces many challenges—intense competition both inside the company where he/she works as well as from outside, stringent regulations on material usage and the ever present tyranny of market tests. Even of one has a collection of innovative and unusual fragrances, chances are that the market shall see only the most familiar and predictable—pink fruity-florals and bright fougeres. Therefore, I would like to point out a younger perfumer whose work caught my attention—Marie Salamagne of Firmenich. Her Kenzo Tokyo is an interesting take on woods, Guerlain Aqua Allègoria Mandarine-Basilic an effervescent citrus. For Parfums Grès, she created a fragrance called My Life: Marlene Dietrich, which is in itself fascinating. I am looking forward to discovering more of her creations in 2008.
Classic Hall of Fame
Christian Dior Eau Sauvage is a fragrance that would be perfect for any decade. On a man, it is the essence of understated elegance and impeccable style. To a woman, it lends a ravishing and seductive aura. The more I study Eau Sauvage, the more I am amazed by its creator, Edmond Roudnitska’s, genius. It blends the ethereal floral notes with the startling sensuality of animalic notes, while the brightness of citrus and basil serves as a bridge between these accords. What is more, the current version of Eau Sauvage on the market is quite close to the original version (not something one can say of most classics these days).
Fragrance to Leave Behind in 2007
Trying to please as many people as possible, the mainstream perfumery all too often ends up playing the same tune over and over again—either bland and anemic or bland and cloying. Even more frustrating is the same blandness I now discover in many niche lines. With few notable exceptions, 2007 has been a poor year for niche, with most offerings lacking in innovative spirit. The niche consumer wants to be challenged and surprised. Please give us this thrill, surprise and excitement (preferably without any gimmicks).
My Fragrance Obsession for 2008
Oud is a resin released by Aquilaria tree species in order to protect themselves against fungus that decomposes their bark and branches. I suspect that 2008 will be a year of oud for me. Having discovered some incredible oud in the Middle East this year, I am fascinated by its complex aroma, which ranges from roses and honey to tobacco and animal hide. It is almost difficult to believe that a single material can produce all of these scents. For an oud inspired fragrance, I would single out Tom Ford Oud Wood, which in a quite interesting twist renders the oud as both rich and sheer.