Best of 2010 : Perfume Launches & Fragrance Reflections

I always feel a certain anxiety about the New Year’s Eve celebration. My family likes to say that how you meet the new year is how you will spend the rest of it. Last year, on New Year’s Eve, as the clock was striking midnight, I was moving hotels in India. I am not superstitious, but I have to admit that 2010 was a year of transitions. In retrospect, I would not have changed a thing about either the laidback way in which we had our most streamlined New Year’s Eve celebration to date—toasting each other over mineral water while sitting on suitcases—nor about any of the transitions I have undertaken since then. They have all taken me to something new, unexpected and exciting. As I sought balance between pleasure and work, smelling and writing, discovering old favorites and exploring new things, I also found lots of support and inspiration in my fellow fragrance lovers, colleagues, bloggers, readers, friends and family. So it is to all of you that I want to say thank you for making 2010 a very memorable and special year for me!

So, without further ado, my 2010 highlights!

Best Niche Launches

Atelier Cologne Bois Blonds

I love the entire Atelier Cologne line, from the longlasting effervescence of Orange Sanguine to the rich intensity of Grand Neroli. Bois Blonds caught my attention because of its use of frankincense to add a bright and fizzy top note. This shimmering cologne nevertheless possesses an appealing richness of woods, amber and jasmine.

Nasomatto Nuda

A classical jasmine composition, Nuda nevertheless hides a few surprises under its green apricot and white petals top accord. A rich animalic note lends the composition quite a sensual aura. Unlike many classical jasmines, Nuda is rendered transparent and gauzy, and yet it retains the beautiful complexity of natural jasmine.

Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady

Portrait of a Lady is a dark, ravishing rose-patchouli duo. The rose is sweet, honeyed and bright; the patchouli is dark, earthy and smoldering. Their marriage is a striking pairing that manages to suggest both the exotic mystery of Paul Poiret’s La Belle Époque and the high-voltage glamour of the 1980s.

Guerlain Arsène Lupin Dandy

Arsène Lupin Dandy explores the classical woods theme, which it liberally ornaments with the spicy freshness of pepper and cardamom. A beautiful violet leaf note underpins the composition, lending it an effect that is both earthy and verdant. A smooth leather note wraps this elegant composition, that while designed as a masculine fragrance would nevertheless appeal to women who love woods and green chypres.

After L’Eau and Nuit de Cellophane, Boxeuses seems to say to me, “All is well in the world. Serge Lutens is back to exploring novel niche combinations.” Boxeuses is a dark leather, with plum and licorice notes. It is an elegant interpretation of a smoky, resinous Russian leather, but with a mischievous twist of musky-animalic notes.

Forget about odalisques gorging themselves on rahat loukoum and hookah smoking mustached men. Traversée du Bosphore is a complex fragrance in the French grand parfum tradition. It explores the classical rose-violet theme, yet it sets it against a modern dry woody accord of remarkable radiance. The austere, almost mineral dryness, contrasts beautifully with the opulent, floral richness, resulting in a composition of strong character and interesting signature.

An airy vetiver, Vetyverio seems to fill yet another chapter in the vetiver story that has had plenty of interesting interpretations, from the crisp and airy Guerlain Vétiver to the dark and moody Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire. Vetyverio is a very appealing woody composition with a juicy mandarin top and a fresh green geranium-jasmine heart.

Best Prestige (Mainstream) Launches

Although Womanity ranks as the worst perfume name of any launch this year (or maybe I simply do not understand the marketing behind it), the fragrance itself is memorable and well crafted. It is an intriguing juxtaposition of dark woods and juicy fig flesh. A salty, marine facet lends it a sensual quality reminiscent of the smell of warm skin after the beach.

Love, Chloé

I love the refined character of Love, Chloé, which is a pepper accented composition of orange and iris set against a soft accord reminiscent of powdered skin. A fresh floral heart lends the composition an appealing vibrancy, while a musky warmth in the base gives Love, Chloé a subtle sensuality. It is a well crafted, high quality fragrance that definitely lives up to its promise of effortless elegance.

Marc Jacobs Bang

Marc Jacobs Men is a very elegant composition of green fig set against a complex woody-musky base. The newest masculine launch, Bang, definitely includes plenty of elegant touches, but above all, it is bold and edgy. The dramatic peppery top note leads to a rich, smoky core of wood. The woody accord, around which Bang is built, reminds me of a well polished diamond. Each facet reveals a new impression—the earthiness of patchouli, the violet darkness of cedarwood, the leathery dryness of moss. On the whole though, it is so well-blended that each component is perfectly balanced. This could almost be launched under the Comme des Garçons label.

Balenciaga Paris

I confess that the first time I tried Balenciaga Paris, I found it bland. Of course, compared to classical mossy fragrances like Miss Dior and Jean Patou Cocktail, it appears quite tame. Yet, I have grown to admire it as an impeccably elegant modern chypre. The violet, from green leaf to soft, creamy flowers, provides a core for the composition. Against this rich violet accord, the touches of pepper, patchouli, vetiver and Veramoss (oakmoss aromamaterial) sparkle like jewels. Above all, Balenciaga Paris possesses a rare quality missing in so many new launches, mainstream or niche—character and a memorable signature.

Untitled Martin Margiela*

It is exciting to see more launches in the woods category, especially in the feminine division. With Estée Lauder Sensuous setting the trend, more interesting woods launches have appeared over the past few years. Untitled Martin Margiela is the most recent of these. It is a green woods composition, with fresh nuances of galbanum and bitter orange. While the dark verdancy of galbanum provides a backdrop for the entire composition, jasmine gives it a complex floral sweetness. The modern austerity of incense and cedarwood serves as a perfect counterpoint to the intricate fresh, green accord. A fantastic debut launch for an avant-garde fashion house.
*I suppose that it could called niche, but the launch scale defines it as prestige.

What were you favorite 2010 discoveries?

Highlights in sensory discoveries outside of the perfume bottle :: Best of 2010: Flavors, Scents, Food, Travel

To see other Best of 2010  lists, please visit: Grain de Musc :: Now Smell This :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume Smellin’ Things.

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45 Comments

  • Olfactoria: Thank you, dear V, for another year of insightful, knowledgable and beautifully worded reviews. I took up many of your suggestions, always with lovely results (a lot of my perfume wardrobe can be attributed directly to you ;)). I am the most thankful though, for us getting to know each other a little bit in these last few months, I couldn’t be happier about that.
    My favorite discoveries are numerous, but what stands out the most maybe is me rediscovering and learning to love (not just appreciate) true classics like Shalimar and Chanel Nr 5. These will be with me forever, rather than being scents of the moment (of which there are many too ;)) December 28, 2010 at 5:24am Reply

  • Ann C: My favorite new launch of 2010 was Shalimar Ode a la Vanille. I used to dislike Shalimar, but then I tried Shalimar Light, Eau de Shalimar and now Shalimar Ode a la Vanille. I think I might ready to try the the grand lady herself. I bought many other fragrances this year (Safran Troublant, Organza Indecence, Cadjmere) but none of them are new. December 28, 2010 at 7:10am Reply

  • Marina: Yes, this year was…interesting. Not so much olfactory, although I agree with as many as 6 of the ones you listed 🙂 Can’t wait for tomorrow’s post! December 28, 2010 at 10:25am Reply

  • Victoria: Dear B, I am also glad that I had an opportunity to get to know you better this winter. I look forward to sharing more thoughts on perfume and beyond in 2011! 🙂
    Exploring classics is an interesting journey, and it is very rewarding. This year I had to do a reverse though and to explore a bit more of the mass market. That in itself produced some interesting discoveries! December 28, 2010 at 11:31am Reply

  • Victoria: Ann, how do you like Cadjmere?
    I did not buy any of the new launches in the full bottle versions either, but I got a bunch of decants. There are days I think that I should just give up buying full bottles, as I would never finish them, and then I cannot resist… I now really want to buy Portrait of A Lady. December 28, 2010 at 11:34am Reply

  • Victoria: I feel like every year is somehow more interesting than the previous. 🙂 Maybe, it is just some retrospective thinking! December 28, 2010 at 11:35am Reply

  • dee: Love, Chloé wasn’t something I’d have thought of wanting to try, but since Birgit and Victoria love it so much, I think I’m going to have to pull on my boots and find a tester bottle—because it sounds divine!

    Thank you for the wonderful list, Victoria, and for your dedicated and thoughtful reviews year-round!

    Best,
    dee December 28, 2010 at 11:39am Reply

  • Victoria: D, Love, Chloé is a very polished, elegant fragrance, very beautifully crafted and easy to wear. It really stood out for me among the feminine prestige launches.
    Thank you for your nice words, D! I try! 🙂 December 28, 2010 at 11:51am Reply

  • Skilletlicker: Hi, Victora. Thanks for the list! My favorite new scent of 2010 is Panache by Parfums Delrae. December 28, 2010 at 12:23pm Reply

  • March: I forgot about Untitled! I did like that one — and you and I shared a couple of best-ofs. But the best of all to me is that you’re back to regular blogging. Here’s to a rewarding 2011. December 28, 2010 at 12:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: Panache is still on my to-sample list. I have been a bit behind in some niche launches, but I will get around to it in 2011. I love Parfums Delrae line. December 28, 2010 at 12:41pm Reply

  • Victoria: March, you really are among the people who have truly inspired me to resume writing on regular basis. Thank you for your encouragement and constant support. Friendships like this are the reason why 2010 was a great year! :)) December 28, 2010 at 12:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: Dominga, thank you, I will. December 28, 2010 at 12:44pm Reply

  • Robin: You know, now that I think of it, I should have included Atelier Cologne somewhere on my list — it’s probably my second favorite new line for 2010.

    And I still have not smelled Untitled! December 28, 2010 at 12:49pm Reply

  • Marina: Pro 2010 vspominaetsya kitajskaya (?) poslovica: chtob ty zhil v interesnoe vremya! 🙂 December 28, 2010 at 1:11pm Reply

  • Victoria: R, you might enjoy it Untitled, it is very green on top and the cedarwood drydown is very pleasant.
    Atelier Cologne was such a nice discovery for me this year. I fully expected it to be yet another pleasant citrusy cologne line, but every fragrance is very memorable and interesting. December 28, 2010 at 1:53pm Reply

  • Victoria: Mda, u nas s toboj jeto sovershenno tak i sluchilos’! U kazhdoj po-raznomu, no vse ravno interesno. :)) December 28, 2010 at 1:54pm Reply

  • Mz Kitty: I’m in love with the Piguet reissue of Calypso. It’s taking everything I have not to buy a bottle, when I should be saving money for moving. And even though it seems a lot of people didn’t particularly care for it, I am kind of obsessed with SL Bas de Soie. I actually have to talk myself out of wearing it every day, which is really something for me. December 28, 2010 at 2:21pm Reply

  • Victoria: I liked Calypso too, which was such a nice take on the original. I know what you mean about having to talk yourself out of wearing something every day! I felt this way about Annick Goutal Neroli, which is a super simple orange blossom, but very pleasant. I am close to finishing my bottle. December 28, 2010 at 2:39pm Reply

  • ScentScelf: Here I am, reading your year-end retrospective, and thinking it was not so long ago that you so kindly invited us all to play the “Scent V. for her wedding” game. I looked back…a year and a half ago…

    …which seemed so long during your absence, but now is but a few chews away. Hmm, perhaps it is good to have these traditional marker reflections? Nonetheless, I am with March; it is good to have you back.

    That said…hmm, your list contains a number of things I have not tried. Bois Blonds and Womanity I intend to; to those intentions, I now must add Guerlain’s Dandy. (A true indication of your full return; Victoria inciting a “need”… 😉 )

    On the vetiver front, I’m finding that I rather like Coeur de Vetiver Sacre. It has taken some doing…at first, a bit too sweet. Then I had to step through Marina’s pickles. Now, however…now I find myself enjoying the final stage quite a bit, which I think of as more an incense than a vetiver. Nonetheless, a pleasant resting spot of woody incensey touch of vanilla somethingness. It’s still too early in our relationship for me to call it ‘Best’ of 2010, but there is still time. Somewhat. December 28, 2010 at 3:25pm Reply

  • carmencanada: I see we share a couple of favourite picks. Boxeuses would have also made the cut if it hadn’t been nudged out by M/MINK, not because I prefer it (I don’t) but because it yielded more interesting prospective thought. Bosphore is actually part of the year’s favourites too, but I’d decided I’d keep the selection down to one perfume per perfumer.
    However, much as I tried to get into Womanity, thinking I might need to get used to the novelty of it, and despite my respect for the Thierry Mugler brand, I finally admitted to myself the awful truth: I loathe it! December 28, 2010 at 4:06pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ah, thank you so much! Time just flies.
    I have a similar relationship with Coeur de Vetiver Sacre, which is why it did not make on my list. I am enjoying it, but I have a feeling that it will grow on me further.
    Bois Blonds is wonderful, a cologne that is rich enough even for winter. Granted, I love almost everything from the line. It was so difficult for me to pick just one!

      December 28, 2010 at 4:44pm Reply

  • Victoria: D, I loved your list too, so many interesting selections, and we do share a few favorites. Your comment about Womanity made me smile. Hey, if it does not work on you, there is no other way around it. My mother hates it, and I cannot wear it around her, as it literally makes her ill. Something about that sweet, sugary fruity note paired with the woods and leather makes for a polarizing effect. At least, it does not leave you indifferent! December 28, 2010 at 4:49pm Reply

  • Yelena: I had no idea that you were also superstitious about New Year’s. I was raised with so much trepidation- my parents would walk on tip toes and I would always hear stories about how someone cried on New Year’s Eve and the disasters that would arise throughout the year. To this day, I can’t shake the trepidation. And then of course, there is the New Year’s feast- do you do that also, where you have all of the meats,fish, vegetables, fruits, sweets, breads, etc. represented? It’s almost ancient Egyptian in theme except you take the foods into the new year rather than the afterlife (one hopes 🙂

    On a fragrant note- amazing list. I still have to experience Portrait of a Woman, Boxeuses and some others. It looks like 2011 will start with the experience of some scents recommended by a woman with impeccable taste in fragrance! December 28, 2010 at 5:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: Lena, thankfully, I managed to avoid being superstitious about the foods that I serve. I guess in the USSR, it was difficult to make sure that the table would represent it all or maybe there was some other reason, but no, my family did not stress that point.
    I just try to make sure that we have some champagne and the rest kind of works out itself. 🙂
    I think that you might like Portrait of a Lady especially, because it feels like your table of fragrance–lots of character, bold, memorable, very high-quality rose notes. I am tempted to place an order with Aedes when I get back, because I already finished my decant. December 28, 2010 at 5:14pm Reply

  • dominga: Hy Victoria, i’d better say Womanity by Mugler,a chic signatre,this time so modern and irresistible..
    have a look to my fragrance blog(i m writing on it in italian,but soon also in enlglish)
    Bye bye
    Dominga December 28, 2010 at 12:32pm Reply

  • Ann C: I love Cadjmere. It’s spicy warmth is just right for our cold winters. I sprayed it on yesterday to help me weather the blizzard. December 28, 2010 at 6:31pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Being a sucker for a literary reference, I have to scamper off to Barneys and try Portriat of a Lady.Henry James, la belle epoque and Isabelle Archer- how divine. December 28, 2010 at 6:54pm Reply

  • Victoria: Sounds like something I would enjoy too! I love spicy warm fragrances, and in our East coast weather this winter, something warm and comforting is a must. 🙂 December 28, 2010 at 7:09pm Reply

  • Victoria: Lynn, I am with you, although to me, it smells more like something out of the Arabian Tales! Very Middle Eastern in spirit. December 28, 2010 at 7:11pm Reply

  • Ina: Hi, V.! I must say I’m glad to see 2 of my personal 2010 favorites in your list – Love, Chloe and Untitled (the only 2 bottle purchases for the entire year). 🙂 I find them both extremely well crafted (and have discovered new appreciation for Andrier’s work). Have not tried any of the niche launches you selected but you sure make them sound appealing. Thanks for the list! Always a pleasure to read. 🙂 December 29, 2010 at 2:29am Reply

  • Victoria: Ina, thank you, it is such a pleasure to hear from you. March and I were just talking the other day about missing you.
    Love, Chloe smells impeccably elegant to me, an olfactory equivalent of a trench coat and a Birkin bag. While I would never in my life carry a Birkin for many reasons, a fragrance conveying that sort of glamor is good enough. 🙂 Untitled was also a pleasant discovery, an edgy prestige launch. I have more fragrances on my to-buy list this year than any year before! December 29, 2010 at 12:12pm Reply

  • Isa: Hi V!

    I completely agree with you about Diptyque Vetyverio. In fact, I have a full bottle and I’m wearing it today.

    This year I loved the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire, especially Orchidee Vanille. Histoires de Parfums Moulin Rouge and Juliette has a gun Calamity J are between my favourites too.

    Happy new year! December 29, 2010 at 6:19pm Reply

  • Victoria: Isa, I sampled Vetyverio first, then bought a decant, and now I am thinking of a full bottle. Definitely one of my favorites vetivers at the moment.

    It is funny that you mention Moulin Rouge, because just this morning I found a sample of it in my makeup bag. I tried it once before, and it did not make an impression. Yet, today I am finding it very beautiful!

    Happy 2011 to you! Hope that it will bring lots of wonderful things and new beautiful scents. 🙂 December 29, 2010 at 8:56pm Reply

  • k-amber: Victoria,
    Lovely list and a few of them are unexpected. I tested Guerlain Arsene Lupin Dandy, which turned to be my test-again-later one. That is very memorable. Actually I bought a bottle of Tonka Imeriale (splurge! Sweet in a good way, not cloying) that time, that filled in my yearly fragrance budget… probably more.

    I will try Love Chloe. A surprise from you!

    Wishing you a happy coming year!
    Kaori December 30, 2010 at 12:31am Reply

  • Victoria: Dear Kaori,
    I also enjoyed Tonka Imperiale, even though it is sweet and vanillic (not my typical favorite!) I would not mind a bottle, although right now a decant seems to be enough. I might buy a larger decant though later.
    Would love to hear what else you have been wearing lately!
    I am enjoying my incense very much. Almost wish that it came as a perfume!

    Happy New Year to you! December 30, 2010 at 1:22am Reply

  • k-amber: Dear Victoria,
    I have been wearing CD Bois D’Argent, Guerlain Bois D’Armenie and Cologne du 68 and Chanel 31 Rue Cambon, as I try to keep 7 or 8 bottles at hand, that is quite difficult 🙂

    I will try some samples that are newly out!

    Kaori December 30, 2010 at 8:35am Reply

  • Victoria: Sounds like a great winter selection! Cologne du 68 is one of my favorites light, day fragrances, as it is very original and deviates from the usual citrusy-woody blends. All of your choices are so elegant! December 30, 2010 at 11:31am Reply

  • Tarleisio: Thank you for a great list! I agree with you on Martin Margiela’s Untitled. I can’t get enough – galbanum, and it was used so well. Alas, my sample is almost gone. I see a bottle in my future. Another one, I should say! But my biggest surprise this year was Boxeuses. From the descriptions I had read, it sounded like something I would absolutely loathe,. even if I do like my leathers! Instead, it was…love – or another four-letter word beginning with L! – at first sight, and I shall know no peace and have no rest until a bell jar is mine, mine, mine! Happy Nerw year to all of you, thank you for al the discoveries of the year gone by – and here’s to all the fun we know we’ll have in 2011! December 30, 2010 at 11:44am Reply

  • Victoria: Boxeuses was a pleasant surprise for me as well. I was so disappointed in the few previous Lutens releases that I had no expectations that I will like it. Instead, it turned to be a very interesting, original leather composition. Here is to having more such interesting fragrances in 2011! December 30, 2010 at 3:28pm Reply

  • k-amber: Dear Victoria,
    Thank you for your comments. I hope Traversee Du Bosphore, smelling so good, join them next year. I enjoy Nuit De tubereuse (soft disguised woody!). When Mr. Duchaufour visited Japan, a part of his tour, he was reportedly impressed with sumi (ink) , that might next his inspiration :), according to L’artisan website. That sounds nice!

    Have a wonderful new year’s eve.
    Kaori December 31, 2010 at 12:06am Reply

  • Victoria: Dear Kaori,
    I love his work in general, and now you've made me find my sample of Traversee du Bosphore and put it on. I might also end up with Nuit de Tubereuse for the summer. You are right that it is a woody fragrance hiding as tuberose. 🙂
    I would love more Japanese inspired fragrances. Japanese culture has so many amazing scents deeply linked to many important traditions.
    P.S. I just took out my calligraphy ink and brushes, and they smell so good!
    Have a wonderful New Year's Eve celebration! December 31, 2010 at 12:45am Reply

  • Annica: Sensuous Noir was a pleasant surprise! Very similar to the older one but it has more depth in my opinion. I love this fragrance. Aaahh.. January 19, 2011 at 12:44pm Reply

  • Majlo: Hey Victoria
    What do you think of D&V Beckhams Intimately Yours, released 2010?
    I have to say that I am very surprised at how lovely it is. Not an ordinary celeb-frag. January 3, 2012 at 3:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: I was also pleasantly surprised by it! It is a lovely blend either way, but for a celebrity perfume, it is downright amazing. 🙂 January 3, 2012 at 9:18pm Reply

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