Best of 2011 : Fragrance Discoveries and Perfume Wishes

bestof2011

881! According to Michael Edwards’s database, that is the number of new launches for 2011. Basically, if you were smelling a new perfume everyday this year, you still would not have covered it all. Not that such thing is to be recommended anyway. As the year winds to a close, it is tempting to offer some sort of recap. As I jotted down my favorites in two categories that I track, niche and prestige (department store), I noticed that I overwhelmingly preferred the department store launches. Most of the niche fragrances released this year seemed to me either overpriced or simply not compelling enough to become my favorites. This is a very personal list, and I do not pretend to have smelled even half of the 881 new launches but here is what caught my attention.

 

Best Niche Launches

If I had to name only two 2011 favorites, I would pick De Profundis and Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum. Serge Lutens creates an elegant, touching composition by combining the bitterness of green flowers and the resinous chill of incense. De Profundis maintains an exquisite balance between rich and airy, dark and effervescent.

I also enjoyed another offering from Lutens, Serge Lutens Jeux de Peau, for its toasty-nutty sandalwood. It is more blunt and dramatic, but equally memorable.

Mon Parfum Cheri takes one into the world of retro glamor thanks to its beautiful form. The iris and mossy notes lend it a refined character, while vanilla and patchouli create a decadent and sensual twist. A memorable play on sensations and a great tribute to classical perfumery.

Sweet Redemption revealed to me that incense and orange blossom can be a surprisingly successful pairing. Innocent and seductive, austere and smoldering, Sweet Redemption successfully plays up the inherent contrasts of these notes. I love its warmth and tenderness.

Vanille Insensée cannot decide whether it wants to be a sweet morsel or a dry wood, and this ambivalence is exactly what makes the most recent fragrance from Atelier Cologne memorable. Its clarity and refinement are unusual for such a rich ambery-woody blend.

 

Best Prestige/Mainstream Launches

If Gucci Rush did not exist, I would unhesitatingly give Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum five stars. The core of Gucci Rush is, however, colored differently, and the outcome is enticing. It has everything that a good perfume should possess—beautiful progression of accords, impressive tenacity, elegant sillage and memorable character.

Violet Blonde is a distinctive composition that treats cool iris notes as sensual. It does not rely on lush, opulent effects to achieve its goal, but rather on the subtle play of images—the satiny feel of petals, the caressing touch of woods, the softness of leather. It is easily one of my favorites this year.

One usually does not expect much from flankers, especially when they clearly try to reach for the younger (read “fruity-floral loving”) audience. In the case of Shalimar Parfum Initial, the result runs counter to anything I might have anticipated. It is bright, lighthearted and coquettish, while retaining the striking sophistication of the original Shalimar. A great example of a classic treated in a modern manner.

I expected Prada Candy to be a banal lollipop, but it is one of the most sophisticated gourmands I have smelled recently. I love its delicate hints of incense and its sheer layers of musk. While it relies on rich, heavy materials, the result is anything but.

The cool touch of lily petals and the powdery sweetness of lipstick… Baiser Volé is built on several surprising twists, and while at first it seems like just another floral, after a few minutes it becomes deeper and richer.

Jean-Paul Gaultier Kokorico

The name and the marketing campaign are quirky and original, and the fragrance has some interesting elements—bitter chocolate top notes, dark patchouli, sparkling green notes. The drydown loses some of the initial vivacity, but overall, Kokorico has plenty of things going for it.

What did you love in 2011?

To see other “Best of 2011” lists, please visit: Grain de Musc :: Now Smell This :: Perfume Posse :: Perfume Smellin’ Things.

Photography © Bois de Jasmin.

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60 Comments

  • Michael: Reading your list, it highlights how few releases I have actually tried this year. Of yours, I tried Jeux de Peau, Prada Candy, Bottega Veneta and very briefly, Shalimar Initial, but only on paper. December 30, 2011 at 4:26am Reply

  • Leo: Thanks for including mainstream favorites. As a new perfumista, I don’t have access (nor the budget) to try niche fragrances. But my small, growing collection already includes two of your favorite mainstreams, VB and Candy, compliments of Santa. I LOVE them both! December 30, 2011 at 5:58am Reply

  • Ann C.: I love your list! I tried samples of Bottega Veneta and Mon Parfum Cheri, par Camille, and immediately bought full bottles of both. In fact, I think I’ll wear Mon Parfum Cheri on New Year’s Eve.

    Happy New Year! December 30, 2011 at 7:02am Reply

  • Austenfan: I have yet to smell the Bottega Veneta, but some of the other ones on your mainstream list I smelled and liked. I wasn’t overly fond of Candy, but did find it well made.
    Another mainstream release that I have enjoyed is the 40th anniversary edition of Aromatics Elixir. I loved it.
    Mon Parfum Chéri is probably my favourite from this year, but then I haven’t smelled many of the new releases.

    Best wishes for the New Year! December 30, 2011 at 7:25am Reply

  • zazie: Interesting list!
    For me, the fragrances that stood out this year are the beauiful Sweet Redemption and Baiser volé, with a strong preference on the former.
    Bottega Veneta didn’t do much for me and Shalimar PI was a huge disappointment – an overwhelming Angel clone, that is what I thought, with no resemblance to the original. But maybe it’s because I love the original so much, I get cranky at any flanker…. December 30, 2011 at 8:49am Reply

  • Suzanna: I have fallen away somewhat from chasing the latest launches and for this reason have only smelled, lazily, a few of these. None were up my alley, although no doubt well done (Violet Blonde, Candy, and Baiser Vole).

    I have Vanille Insensee and I can highly recommend the very aromatic soap (sold at Luckyscent). The soap alone scents the skin for hours, as well as one’s bathroom. December 30, 2011 at 9:02am Reply

  • Vanessa: Great list, and I so agree with you on the high standard of prestige launches this year, and you have featured most of my favourites. Esprit d’Oscar is another I would add to it.

    I also liked Sweet Redemption and would very much like to try Vanille Insensee. So far you and Elena have the most overlap with my tastes – am finding it interesting taking a look at everybody’s picks! December 30, 2011 at 9:18am Reply

  • Elisa: A couple other mainstream launches I found interesting and different were Diane and CK Shock for Him — not full-bottle worthy for now, but a nice change from the standard offerings. December 30, 2011 at 10:18am Reply

  • Carla: I think Neela vermeire perfumes should be mentioned. A truly niche and individual start-up with very well made perfumes. December 30, 2011 at 10:38am Reply

  • Robin: I thought mainstream prestige beat niche this year too…exact opposite of last year.

    Happy 2012, V! December 30, 2011 at 10:43am Reply

  • civava: I surprisingly liked Candy and Shalimar Parfum Initial. It has been a while since comercial perfume has got so much attention from me. I liked almost whole of the By Killian L’Oeuvre Noire line. December 30, 2011 at 10:51am Reply

  • carmencanada: I agree this was a pretty good year for mainstream launches, though I beg to differ on Shalimar Parfum Initial, which I found had a rather distressing, plasticky base note. And I would have really wanted Baiser Volé to be more of a lily, which was the initial idea. As for Kokorico, it’s got the dreaded “spiky wood” materials I’m hyperosmic to so I couldn’t bring myself to test it more thoroughly though a Menardo/Cresp collaboration was something I was very much looking forward to.
    Candy and Bottega Veneta seem to pop up in almost every list, which is a good sign… I’d have included Sweet Redemption in my own but decided to stick to ten selections, and De Profundis is certainly very intriguing.

    Happy New Year to all! December 30, 2011 at 11:08am Reply

  • Victoria: Browsing through the full list of new releases, I was shocked how many were launched here in the US and how many I felt no desire at all to smell. Yet, the prestige market was really vibrant, with some interesting and original compositions. December 30, 2011 at 11:46am Reply

  • Victoria: I am getting more and more disappointed with niche launches, when their main claim to difference seems to be the price point.
    At any rate, one can have an enjoyable and distinctive perfume collection without many niche scents in it. I would take Candy over most L’Artisan fragrances any day! December 30, 2011 at 11:51am Reply

  • Victoria: Sounds wonderful! I will wear either Bottega Veneta or Bois de Violette, both of which I brought with me.

    Happy New Year! December 30, 2011 at 11:52am Reply

  • Victoria: I smelled the Perfumer’s Reserve AE briefly, but I liked it very much. It is well-done, elegant, with some interesting twists.

    Hope that 2012 will bring more great discoveries to all of us! December 30, 2011 at 11:54am Reply

  • Victoria: 🙂 I can understand that! I feel this way about some of my favorite classics. December 30, 2011 at 12:08pm Reply

  • Victoria: I have Atelier Cologne soap scented with Oolong Infini, and I concur! It smells fantastic and rich. I also like that the soap itself lasts well. December 30, 2011 at 12:09pm Reply

  • Victoria: I forgot about Esprit d’Oscar, but you are right, it is a very interesting fragrance.
    If you like non-foody vanillas, I think that you will appreciate Vanille Insensee. It is almost more of an amber than vanilla! December 30, 2011 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Victoria: CK Shock for Him was a pleasant surprise! December 30, 2011 at 12:11pm Reply

  • Victoria: Definitely! I love her Mohur especially. December 30, 2011 at 12:11pm Reply

  • Victoria: Happy 2012 to you and your family, R! May it bring the best of everything to you.

    I agree, last year was the opposite. There were more interesting niche launches. This year, I was mostly surprised by the prices on niche perfumes, rather than anything else. December 30, 2011 at 12:13pm Reply

  • Victoria: I discovered by Kilian some time after it was launched, but better late than never. Some of the fragrances are excellent and memorable. December 30, 2011 at 12:14pm Reply

  • Victoria: Kokorico has a wonderful, original opening, but it peters out a bit too fast. Still, the idea and the presentation on the whole are so good that I wanted to include it anyway. December 30, 2011 at 12:15pm Reply

  • Andy: A happy New year to you! I’ve been anticipating your list, and I especially loved Sweet Redemption for its interesting pairing. I thought I wouldn’t like it, but it ended up being one of my favorite launches this year. December 30, 2011 at 12:49pm Reply

  • dee: It WAS a good year for mainstream! Parfum Initial really surprised me, and Prada Candy has become a favorite sleep scent.

    There weren’t too many actual new releases that I discovered this year, but it was a good year of discovery (for me) none the less 🙂 December 30, 2011 at 12:53pm Reply

  • Victoria: I find it addictive, with its lush, sweet floral accord melting into the smoky, resinous incense. Very interesting and easy to wear. December 30, 2011 at 12:54pm Reply

  • Victoria: D, if I did not work close to Saks and Bergdorf, I would not have smelled many new launches either. It is just too much effort to track them all down, and at some point, I want simply to enjoy my old favorites. 
    That being said, I am glad that I did not balk to trying the fragrances that made my favorites list this year. 🙂 December 30, 2011 at 12:56pm Reply

  • Kym: I did like Bottega Venetta, but have been trying not to buy as of late. That didn’t stop me from buying Breydo’s Seven Veils which I adore. I fell in love with PdN Vanille Tonka – which I guess doesn’t count because it’s not new. Bought a bottle of Shalimar Initial, which I’m really not to sure about. Loved it in the store, but it’s not performing at home. So, while I bought many bottles this year, I really fell in love with one scent. Which is plenty. December 30, 2011 at 1:17pm Reply

  • Erin T: Hey, you and I had a lot of crossover: I really liked De Profundis and Sweet Redemption, too, as well as Jeux de Peau. I am also one of the few who thought Parfum Initial was well done, as well (if not nearly in the classic category of the original). OTOH, I’m starting to feel like I’m really alone in the wilderness on not liking the mainstream launches this year: Violet Blonde, Bottega Venetta, Candy, etc., etc. Bah humbug. 😉 Maybe I just haven’t got over being grumpy from smelling Burberry Body – gosh, that was awful. December 30, 2011 at 1:56pm Reply

  • Rose D: I am not a fan of Body either! Good to know I am not alone 😉 December 30, 2011 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Rose D: What a year! If I were to pick only one release that marked it for me, it would be Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial. I discovered it while shopping for a lipstick; and the surprise could not have been more pleasant. Parfum Initial was refreshing in the best possible way, since the original is way too much for me. This one, I can actually wear it and have been thinking about buying a full bottle ever since I tried my sample.

    I am dying to try Serge Lutens De Profundis! Maybe it is just the perfect excuse for visiting Paris 🙂 December 30, 2011 at 3:34pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Lovely list. I suppose I will eventually have to try the Prada Candy sample lurking at the bottom of my sample bag since both you and Robin (and, and, and) are in agreement, but for now I’ll start with Violet Blonde. 😉 December 30, 2011 at 3:45pm Reply

  • Nelly: Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum-просто влюбилась в них, Вика. December 30, 2011 at 4:08pm Reply

  • Victoria: One strong love is plenty! 🙂
    Seven Veils is on my list to try, it sounds fantastic. December 30, 2011 at 7:17pm Reply

  • Victoria: Out of the new launches, Jeux de Peau is the one I wore the most (and Sweet Redemption.) Such an interesting and surprising composition, and I love its gourmand-toasty twist on sandalwood. December 30, 2011 at 7:18pm Reply

  • Victoria: I did not care for it either! December 30, 2011 at 7:18pm Reply

  • Victoria: I had very low expectations, mostly because I tend to get cranky about flankers. It is so vivacious, lighthearted, and yet refined. December 30, 2011 at 7:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: Do try both of them! Candy was a surprise for me. Violet Blonde made me realize that I like Tom Ford Signature Line very much (the Private Blends… those I can live without.) December 30, 2011 at 7:21pm Reply

  • Victoria: Я тоже! Совершенно не ожидала, что они будут таким элегантными и запоминающимися. Кожа и ирис… ммм, просто чудесно. December 30, 2011 at 7:22pm Reply

  • skilletlicker: I just want to thank you, Victoria, for the the past year of boisdejasmin! You are truly an Olympic-calibre equestrienne of the written word!

    Happy New Year! December 30, 2011 at 8:12pm Reply

  • bulldoggirl: Wish I weren’t completely anosmic to Bottega Veneta. Maybe if I give it some time, I’ll eventually be able to smell it.

    Love, love, LOVE Shalimar Initial. I was prepared to hate it, didn’t, and now I wear it almost daily. Such a compelling scent. I also like Angel EDT very much—that opening is quite luminous. December 30, 2011 at 8:16pm Reply

  • Lavanya: So many interesting launches this year- I still need to play catch up- but I never feel compelled to smell every new launch unless it gets really high praise from the bloggers I follow (like you..:))..That said I am throughly enjoying By Kilian sweet redemption. I was addicted to this scent even before I admitted I liked it. I love wearing it to sleep – it puts me in the best mood. I really liked Vanille Insensee which I accidentally chanced upon in a random store..I need to get a sample to determine if it is ‘really like’ or ‘love’. I found Parfum Initial a little too sweet but I can understand its appeal.. I made many new (to me) scent discoveries this year that I have fallen in love with including Carnal Flower which was mostly thanks to you..:)

    I need to sniff De Profundis and Mon Parfum Cheri

    Happy New Year, V! December 30, 2011 at 9:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you very much. Having such a diverse, fun and interesting group of readers is a great gift!

    Happy New Year! May it bring lots of happiness! December 30, 2011 at 9:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: I liked Angel EDT as well. Nicely done, refined and with some fun new elements. Actually, the whole Gout de Parfum collection is excellent. December 30, 2011 at 9:32pm Reply

  • Victoria: Happy New Year, Lavanya!!

    Yay about Carnal Flower! I feel that my work for this year has been done, if I managed to get someone else on the CF bandwagon with me. I love this fragrance. 🙂 December 30, 2011 at 9:34pm Reply

  • Lavanya: Yes- Carnal Flower is definitely one of my ‘desert island’ scents. After buying this, I have stopped buying tuberoses at my farmer’s market (which is not really a good thing but just goes to show what a beautiful perfume this is..:)). Thanks! December 30, 2011 at 9:58pm Reply

  • violetnoir: I love your list, V, and hope that the trend of beautiful mainstream perfume releases continues.

    I have to admit that it has been a relief not having to pay those higher niche prices and being able to just run down the street to the mall to test them.

    Happy New Year! Here’s to a fragrant 2012!

    Hugs! December 31, 2011 at 1:40am Reply

  • Victoria: 🙂 The tuberose our stores sell does not smell that potent for some reason and it wilts very fast. December 31, 2011 at 10:22am Reply

  • Victoria: Happy New Year, R!
    I am also glad to discover more interesting fragrances at the department stores. I get so cranky over luxurious pricing! December 31, 2011 at 10:24am Reply

  • Nancy: I have to endorse violetnoir’s comments about your list! And, yes the price points are through the roof, which makes me think things through before purchasing a new fragrance. Your list for 2011 covers my sentiments as well. Often I revisit a counter to “re-discover” a fragrance, which was the recent case with Traversee du Boshphore, which on first sniff was a turnoff (for me). My second time around it evolved into a really interesting fragrance with good staying power and sillage in my re-visit. Bottega Veneta, on a scent card haunts me for some reason: it reminds me of something from the past. Cannot place it. Any help on this?
    Happy New Year 2012 to all!

    Nancy December 31, 2011 at 11:49am Reply

  • Victoria: Bottega Veneta makes me think of Gucci Rush and a bit of Nina Ricci Deci Dela. I love that leather-fruity chypre style very much.

    Happy New Year!! December 31, 2011 at 1:36pm Reply

  • Ari: I do not disagree with a single one of your picks, Victoria! Even though I did not personally like Shalimar Parfum Initial, I know that it has a lot of fans. Prada Candy is my pick for best mainstream of the year, too! December 31, 2011 at 3:04pm Reply

  • Victoria: I love making these lists at the end of the year, because they help me figure out what I liked, how my tastes change over time and what old favorites still remain firmly entrenched in their positions. It is my end of the year reflection of sorts. 🙂 December 31, 2011 at 6:32pm Reply

  • hongkongmom: Happy New Year all. Have enjoyed Bottega and Violet Blonde..but both seem to be so fleeting on my skin. Finally after so much time of “this is so not me” i have fallen head over heels with fracas….sigh January 1, 2012 at 3:50am Reply

  • Victoria: Happy New Year!

    Fracas can certainly take some time to enjoy. It is such a bold, challenging composition.
    I agree on VB being rather soft-spoken. I wish it were richer. January 1, 2012 at 11:02am Reply

  • Debbie: I adore Prada Candy and it’s looking to be a repeat purchase for me – or I may go for Jeux de Peau which isn’t as lovely as Candy but just so interesting.

    Violet Blonde is next on my shopping list although in the meantime I can do a fair approximation of it by combining Oscar de la Renta’s Volupte and Westwood’s Boudoir (with apologies, as this is probably a massive insult to all three fragrances!) January 2, 2012 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, that sounds like an interesting layering idea! I need to find my sample of Volupte and give it a try. 🙂 January 2, 2012 at 3:38pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: I was pleasantly surprised by Prada Candy. Judging from the name and the packaging, I was expecting some sticky sweet, teenage mall rat scent that smelled like Jolly Rancher candy, but instead I found it youthful, playful, yet sophisticated enough for someone over 12 to wear. It has a playful sexiness (I keep returning to that word “playful” but it seems to fit perfectly)that I found hard to resist. I think I will wear it in the Spring, though- it seems to go with light colors and light weight fabrics, rather than winter wear. It has such a sunshine vibe!

    Happy New Year to all, and here’s wishing you all peace, prosperity and perfume! January 3, 2012 at 6:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: Playful is a great way to describe Candy. It seems rich and warm one moment and airy and sparkling a minute later. Nicely done, like most Prada fragrances.
    Happy New Year, Lynn! May all of your wishes come true.  January 3, 2012 at 9:20pm Reply

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