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.
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?
Photography © Bois de Jasmin.