While surrounded by perfume bottles and sample vials, I sat down to sum up 2014, I quickly realized that writing anything resembling the best of the year’s launches would be impossible. As much as I tried to keep Bois de Jasmin going, my year was overshadowed by the events in Ukraine, a country where I grew up and where I still have many friends and family members. As my anxieties and worries increased, tracking down new fragrances became less of a priority.
Then again, how is it even feasible to try most of the 2000+ annual releases? So, Patricia, Elisa, Andy and I decided that instead of the usual “best of 2014”, we will tell you what new perfumes we have discovered, regardless of when they were launched. I may not have explored as many 2014 debuts, but I still wore plenty of perfume and whenever something new and interesting came my way, I was happy to discover it. If anything, I became more convinced how essential small pleasures are in helping us maintain balance. Calling perfume a luxury misses the entire point. The dose of beauty it brings is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. I think that many of you agree, because my article In the Defense of Guilt-Free Pleasure was the most read piece on Bois de Jasmin this year. (You also enjoyed the story of the Rose Harvest in Grasse, tips on Improving Your Sense of Smell, an overview of Best Jasmine Perfumes and a visit to my Childhood House in Poltava.)
Bois de Jasmin wishes you a wonderful start to 2015 and hopes that the new year will bring you much happiness and joy. We look forward to sharing more stories and perfumes with you.
Victoria’s 2014 Favorites
Knot was not only a perfume that made an impression on me out of the new launches I sampled, it was the fragrance I wore the most. It’s a vignette of orange blossoms, lavender and soft musk that makes me fantasize about a summer in Provence. Versatile, impeccably styled, and yet quite lighthearted.
Burberry Brit Rhythm for Women
Brit Rhythm for Women may not survive on the market in 2015, but it’s not the fault of the fragrance. The elegant peony spiked with lavender and woods was simply not the right fit for the teen-friendly brand Burberry wanted to create. There is a dissonance between the edgy, ultra-sophisticated feel of the perfume and the casual slant of the marketing. And the scent is excellent. If you want something interesting, niche without the niche price tag, then look no further.
I’m pleased to include Eau de Gaga on my list of 2014 most worn perfumes. The violet petal and zesty lime opening is addictive, while the green tea drydown is refreshing and bright. A terrific, nicely done cologne.
A very different cologne from Eau de Gaga, Eau de Magnolia is anything but conventional. It’s a floral that wants to be a chypre, and the interplay among its facets–citrusy magnolia, peppery bergamot and crisp moss–is intriguing. Very easy to wear (as long as you don’t mind its silvery, metallic tinge) and a fascinating take on the classical cologne genre.
Narciso by Narciso Rodriguez
An excellent twist on musk. Narciso is much softer than the original Narciso Rodriguez, but frankly, they are too different to be compared. Instead of the floral accent, Narciso anchors musk with plenty of vetiver. All of the dirt and grit from the vetiver roots are washed away, and instead you have an accord of silky, pale green woods.
I admire Ann Gérard’s line, and her latest entrant, Rose Cut, doesn’t disappoint. A dark, earthy rose with a delicious raspberry-violet swirl. Also, one of my most worn perfumes this year.
La Panthère is undoubtedly an excellent fragrance and a much needed mossy floral on the market (this category tends to be neglected), but it was perhaps too grand and plush for my tastes. But objectively, this leather wrapped gardenia is interesting, well-crafted and has a striking, memorable character.
I loved this iris inflected take on a classical oriental. Imagine Shalimar set into a cool accord of sweet violet petals and iced, earthy roots. Dramatic without being high-maintenance.
I have been reaching so much for my bottle of No 19 Poudré that I wore it more often this year than my beloved No 19. Ok, they are not related, and if you want a softer take on the Chanel classic, consider Annick Goutal Heure Exquise instead. No 19 Poudré is a gauzy, powdery blend of musks and iris that feels like frothy chiffon on skin.
Last Christmas I got a bottle of Habit Rouge for my husband and ended up wearing it more often than he did. No, it was not a part of some ulterior plan. I was just reminded how excellent this perfume is. Launched in 1965, this chic orange blossom and incense laced oriental feels beyond trends.
Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs
Unlike Habit Rouge, Anais Anais feels somewhat retro to me, but it’s part of its appeal. Today, floral notes have a very different quality, much more radiant, brighter and sharper. Anais Anais, by contrast, is an impressionist blur of white and green petals that at a distance hints at a bouquet of hyacinths and lily of the valley. But up close, it’s soft, musky, and creamy, with no flower standing out. Charming.
Andy’s 2014 Favorites
Aedes de Venustas Copal Azur & Tom Ford Sahara Noir
I loved both of these amber and incense blends so much that I couldn’t help but include both of them on my list. While I enjoyed the new Copal Azur for its rugged, outdoorsy aura, I loved wearing Sahara Noir for its smoldering drama and over-the-top seductiveness. Both are truly excellent.
If I could have tried only one perfume this whole year, this is the one I’d have chosen. Perhaps it’s true that no perfume can evoke the gardenia flowers of my memory, but this perfume comes close enough for me. Until I’ve found something even better, it will hold the place of honor as my favorite gardenia perfume, as I love its tropical, humid radiance and lack of candied sweetness.
This unexpected favorite is deceptively simple: lavender, vanilla, a little amber. Nonetheless, this uncomplicated, classic blend managed to charm me by smelling just plain lovely, without trying too hard. Really, this is just about the best compliment I can give to a fragrance.
Serge Lutens L’Orpheline
When I tried L’Orpheline on paper, I was almost ready to dismiss the perfume entirely—it smelled unpleasantly synthetic and, quite frankly, odd. Against the warmth of my skin, however, L’Orpheline took a shocking turn, instead smelling serenely of plush incense, creamy patchouli, and dusky herbs. When I found that I wanted to apply it again and again, I realized that L’Orpheline deserved a spot among my 2014 favorites.
Elisa’s 2014 Favorites
MiN New York Scent Stories, a pricy collection of 11 scents available only by membership at the eponymous Manhattan boutique, could have been a complete failure of a gimmick, but I surprised myself by having a lot of fun digging through the line. The concepts are compelling and the materials feel high-quality, despite a couple of duds (such as Dune Road, with its top note of under-ripe melon). Two of my favorites are Barrel (a whiskey scent so spicy I got whiffs of Chinese mustard) and Dahab (a rich, smoky oud with incense).
I’ve also been getting to know the La Perfumerie Moderne line, which was launched in 2013 but is new to me. It includes just three scents, all simple but beautifully done, including Cuir X (a sweet leather with iris), No Sport (a terrific masculine geranium), and Desarmant (a strikingly realistic lilac).
Who needs another beachy scent? I do, apparently, and I was crushing on a couple this year: Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum sold out quickly and it’s no wonder: this simple but sexy combination of high-quality indolic jasmine and woody vanilla is the proverbial vacation in a bottle. And Van Cleef & Arpels California Reverie is like the dreamiest, sunniest vacation breakfast: there’s a big vase of beautiful white flowers on the table – jasmine, neroli, frangipani, and a touch of lily in the drydown – plus honey and lemon custard, and a sweet sea breeze blowing through the window.
In terms of older releases that got a lot of wear in 2014: The decants I ran through most quickly were Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule (which I mentioned in my winter favorites back in January), Fifi Chachnil (a wonderful rosy/saffron/tobacco fragrance), and Mona di Orio Musc (just a perfect powdery floral). I also finally bought a bottle of L’Occitane Eau des Baux, and both my husband and I have reached for this soapy amber often.
Patricia’s 2014 Favorites
It was a year of interesting and unusual releases, so I was surprised when going through my records to discover that I bought only two full bottles of perfume released in 2014. The first, Parfums DelRae Wit, was love at first sniff, and I wore it happily all summer. It’s such a pretty floral and provided sunshine and chirping birds no matter the weather.
The second just arrived on my doorstep this morning. When I first sampled it, I was unimpressed, but something brought me back to my store sample again and again. When Burberry Brit Rhythm for Women hit the online discounters and I could buy a small bottle of it for under $30, I did. The main note is supposed to be lavender, but if it’s in there, it is faint indeed. What I do get is pink pepper and plenty of it, along with a pleasant rose-peony accord. I may tire of this in time and pass it on to one of my daughters, but for now it’s my easy-to-wear scent of the year.
Other 2014 releases that I’ve sampled and enjoyed are Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt, Olfactive Studio Ombre Indigo, and Tom Ford Private Blend Mandarino di Amalfi. Once my small spray decants are drained, full bottles may be in my future.
My perfume rediscoveries for 2014 are contained in a pretty malachite box that sits on my bureau. I have fallen in love again with the beautiful and well-constructed fragrances in the Frédéric Malle line. Though I have quite a few different perfumes in this line, they are all samples or travel sized and fit neatly in this small box with the lid raised. Because rose is one of my favorite notes, it should come as no surprise that Lipstick Rose and Une Rose are frequently worn. However, Portrait of a Lady may be a bit too much lady for me, as I don’t always get along with patchouli, even when combined with rose. I do, however, enjoy the soft L’Eau d’Hiver, the creamy, powdery Iris Poudré, and the fresh-baked bread and heavenly lilac in En Passant.
Of course, we would love to know what perfumes you have discovered in 2014 and what you fell in love with you?
Photography by Bois de Jasmin, some of the memorable moments of the year (the feline beauty in the third set of photo is Grain de Musc’s Jicky).